Pubdate: Wed, 24 Oct 2012
Source: Arkansas Traveler, The (AR Edu)
Copyright: 2012 The Arkansas Traveler
Author: Brian J. Stark


Mary Grace walked through a dark living room to the bedroom in the 
back. There's an air conditioner in the front living room window 
blowing smoky, musty air throughout. With every wall being made of 
cinder block painted grayish-white, it doesn't take much imagination 
to see this place for what it was 30 years ago, a chicken house. Junk 
clutters every surface. Mary Grace has had her name changed for privacy.

"Hey Mary," Mark the dealer greeted, pausing his attention from an 
episode of "Futurama," while lying on his bed, that also serves as a 
joint rolling station. Grace, 28, strode silently to the bathroom, 
shut the door and vomited. There was silence while she put herself 
back together. The water ran for a moment and then she came out. 
"What's up?" she asked.

Grace is here to smoke marijuana. "If it wasn't for pot I would have 
lost my first child. I mean, I couldn't eat," she said, "but he was 
born strong and healthy." During her first pregnancy, Grace was 
diagnosed with Hyperemesis gravidarum or excessive nausea. This 
threatens the child because of dehydration and the lack of nutrients. 
With her second child on the way, she is suffering from the same condition.

During her first pregnancy in 2009, she was prescribed multiple 
anti-nausea medications. These either failed to deliver what the name 
proclaims, required heavy dosage-four to five pills a day-or caused 
an allergic reaction.

"Smoking a couple of hits marijuana stops my nausea, and I can eat," 
she said. And by extension, her unborn child can eat as well.

Grace is one of many Arkansans who have desperately sought help and 
relief of ailments through prescribed medicine. But, when pills and 
patches, shots and such didn't provide relief, they have turned to, 
and defend their illegal relief: marijuana.

Medical marijuana helps ease the symptoms of a myriad of conditions 
like: Veterans nerves with PTSD, stops nausea, stimulates appetite, 
soothes chronic pain with Fibromyalgia, reduces epileptic seizures 
and relieves muscle tightness, called spasticity, associated with 
Multiple Sclerosis. Arkansans will decide Nov. 6, if marijuana, under 
State Law, is a legal medicinal option.

"This takes sick people off the 'war on drugs' battlefield," Ryan 
Denham said, campaign director for Arkansas for Compassionate Care.

If Issue 5 passes, Arkansas will be the first southern state to join 
17 other states, mostly northeastern and western, where medical 
marijuana is accessible.

Arkansas' medical marijuana initiative would give qualified patients 
the ability to obtain marijuana through dispensaries or, by the 
personal cultivation of up to six plants if the patient lives five 
miles from a dispensary. If a patient doesn't want to grow, he or she 
can institute a caregiver, who can grow for them. This proposition 
worries some conservative political groups in the state. The recent 
achievement by Arkansas for Compassionate Care in adding medical 
marijuana to the upcoming ballot via voter petition was challenged by 
The Coalition to Preserve Arkansas Values. The group of conservative 
political reform committees filed a lawsuit in early September 
against the measure. Notwithstanding the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled 
on Sept. 27, that the measure for medical marijuana would stay on the 
ballot, making Arkansas one of seven states with pending legislation 
on the matter.

Jerry Cox, founder and president of the Family Council Action 
Committee, sees this initiative as "bad law, based on bad medicine."

"All you need is a few doctors who will write these medical marijuana 
scripts," Cox said. "If you are breathing and you walk in and see one 
of these low rung doctors and say, 'oh my back hurts,' you can get 
your medical marijuana certificate and it's good for life. We can't 
have that," he insisted.

Grace had arrived at the dealer's house 15 minutes ago and was still 
struggling with her nausea. Twice she had been forced back to the 
tiny bathroom, while she waited on Mark to finish rolling the joint. 
Dressed in a green tie-dye dress and a faded blue tank top, she sat 
on the thin, wooden chair rocking back and forth. Her breathing was 
deliberate and focused. Every forward and back motion was timed with 
her breathing. Forward, back inhale. Forward, back exhale. There's 
nothing left in her stomach. The two previous trips to the bathroom 
were dry-heaves.

Mark walked in from the catty-corner bedroom with an unlit joint 
hanging from his mouth. He made his way to his chair through the 
small room, which is bathed in a dim, almost yellow-orange light from 
a miniature ceiling fan, whose one-foot blades are covered in dust.

Back and forth Grace rocked with her eyes closed. Mark lit the joint 
with a mini blowtorch lighter and passed to his left. She took two 
drags and passed it back, still rocking. The joint came back. "By the 
third hit my symptoms disappear," she said. Grace was no longer rocking.

"This has never been primarily about effective and smart medical 
advancements," said Larry Page, director of Arkansas Faith and Ethics 
Council. "Many of those who have and are driving this issue have 
revealed what it is really about - the full and unrestricted use of 
recreational marijuana."

Page isn't altogether against the medical benefits derived from the 
cannabis plant. Citing his article on the AFEC website entitled 
"Comprehensive Case Against Medical Marijuana" he says, "Some of 
those other and better THC delivery systems are the ingestion of the 
raw plant ... or, a synthetic form of THC, Marinol, can be taken in 
pill form. It has proven to be effective in relieving the nausea 
associated with chemotherapy for cancer patients." Or, former cancer 
patients like Emily Williams.

"I do remember the first time I used pot butter," said Williams, wife 
of city attorney Kit Williams. "I wasn't sure what I was doing. 
There, that should be enough," she thought. Williams had put too much 
butter on her toast and overdosed. "When I overdosed all I did was 
laugh for the first time in months," she recounts about her battle 
with Lymphoma.

"On Saturday morning, the week of my fifth chemo treatment, I put the 
pot butter on my toast, I ate my breakfast, which I was able to do, 
and I went to the dog show," she said. "I was stoned."

Emily had kept her illegal relief secret. "I remember going to Kit 
saying, I need you to drive me to the dog show, I've been using pot 
and I'm stoned." Continuing with tears in her eyes "but I was 
functional, I was able to walk, I was able to take Meme, her dog, 
into the ring, I was able to show her, and she won something that day."

But Emily, at that point, was several months, and chemo sessions into 
her battle. It didn't start with pot butter, it started with a 
desperate search for something that "would allow her to eat in the 
first place, and just feel normal," she said. Smoking gave her the 
symptom relief she needed to eat.

Immediately after Emily's first chemo treatment she thought, "I am so 
sick I don't know if I am going to survive. None of this prescribed 
medicine works, I'm going to try pot."

"As soon as I smoked, I experienced pain relief of my bones which 
ached, the nausea, the intense headache, gone," she said. "I turned 
and was able to walk up the stairs and take a shower and brush my teeth."

Medical marijuana had given Emily normalcy. She is cancer free and 
will soon hit the two-year mark of a clean bill of health.

"You don't appreciate normal until you aren't," she said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom