Pubdate: Thu, 26 May 2016
Source: Orange County Register, The (CA)
Copyright: 2016 The Orange County Register
Author: Brooke Edwards Staggs


For more than a year, U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Costa Mesa, says 
he took two ibuprofen nightly to deal with severe arthritis. Four 
hours later - restless, in pain - he would wake and take more medicine.

Then, during a speaking stop at a San Bernardino marijuana festival 
and trade show, he discovered a cannabis-infused wax that is supposed 
to relieve pain. The Republican congressman said he decided two weeks 
ago to skip the ibuprofen and give it a try. The topical treatment 
didn't make him high, he said. But it eased his pain.

"I put it on my arm and I sleep through the whole night," he told the 
Register in an interview Wednesday.

He's been using the wax since and said he "absolutely" intends to 
continue doing so.

It's not uncommon for legislators to admit to using pot in their 
youth. But Rohr abacher is the first sitting U.S. congressman in at 
least several decades to acknowledge being a cannabis consumer while 
in office, Alan St. Pierre, executive director of the National 
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, told Russ Belville of 
Cannabis Radio, which first reported Rohrabacher's admission.

The coastal Orange County lawmaker has been a leading conservative 
champion of relaxing penalties on marijuana use in Orange County, 
California and nationally.

He pushed for a federal policy that prevents the Department of 
Justice from interfering with state laws permitting medical 
marijuana. And in April he endorsed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, 
an initiative headed for the November ballot that would legalize 
cannabis use in California.

He's previously admitted pot use as a young adult. But until a couple 
of weeks ago, he said, "I haven't touched anything to do with 
cannabis or marijuana since I was 23 years old."

Medical marijuana is legal in California, but it remains illegal 
under U.S. statutes. The Drug Enforcement Administration considers 
marijuana to have "no currently accepted medical use," ranking it 
alongside heroin as a Schedule 1 drug.

This designation is at odds with a growing body of research that 
suggests marijuana can be effective in treating chronic pain, muscle 
stiffness and other ailments.

"What gets me is that we have other people suffering the same kind of 
pain that I've been suffering," Rohrabacher said. "But veterans have 
to live with their pain because under the Veterans Administration, 
they're not permitted to use medical marijuana."

He was introduced to the pain-relief wax in April at the High Times 
Cannabis Cup festival in the Inland Empire. A vendor showed him a 
candle infused with cannabis, explaining he could melt it and and rub 
the liquid on any area that's hurting.

Rohrabacher said he wasn't expecting much when he tried it, but was 
quickly convinced.

He said he hadn't planned to disclose his cannabis use when he 
attended a NORML event Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

"A lot of other people strategize about every word that they speak in 
public," he said. "I usually say what's in my heart and soul."

Rohrabacher said he's lost some conservative O.C. voters, but gained 
more new supporters.

"I think it's fabulous to have our congressman share the medical 
benefits of topical cannabis," said Costa Mesa resident Sue Marie, 
58, who's used the products herself when her hands hurt.

Lisa Inserra of Aliso Viejo said she "isn't a fan" of cannabis. But 
she supports anyone's right to use it for medical purposes.

She said Rohrabacher's decision to treat his arthritis that way is 
the first one he's made that she agrees with.

"Especially for pain, it's the best option over the opioids that are 
regularly prescribed by doctors," Inserra, 48, said.

Rohrabacher said he doesn't have a doctor's recommendation for 
medical marijuana use, a provision of California law that has been 
loosely enforced, particularly when it comes to medical marijuana 
products that do not get patients high.

Rohrabacher said he hopes the requirement will soon be eliminated and 
give adults easier access to cannabis.

If Congress could cast a secret ballot, Rohrabacher said he's 
convinced more lenient marijuana policies would pass. But he said too 
many legislators are worried about how opponents might use it against them.

On Wednesday, he already saw a ripple effect of acknowledging his cannabis use.

Rohrabacher said an elected official, whom he wouldn't name but who 
has been been staunchly opposed to his marijuana proposals, asked 
him: "What's this I hear about you using marijuana?"

Rohrabacher said he explained that the wax dulled his pain and helped 
him sleep.

"He goes, 'Oh my goodness, I've got arthritis. You think I could get 
some of that?' "

Staff writer Christopher Yee and The Washington Post contributed to this report.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom