I’ve met dads who know why medical marijuana may help with addiction

For the last few weeks, I’ve been spending time interviewing medical marijuana caregivers Glenn and Catherine Lewis, as well as some of their colleagues, clients and friends. Glenn and Catherine run Homegrown Healthcare of Maine LLC in Manchester, Maine. As caregivers, they grow different strains of medical marijuana and create individualized lines of products (it’s important to emphasize that medical marijuana does not have to be smoked) for each client’s unique health care needs.

I met Glenn and Catherine after listening to and blogging about public testimony about LD 1537, An Act To Combat Drug Addiction through Enforcement, Prevention, Treatment and Recovery.

I’d been planning to do a series of posts about these interviews (click here to read the first one), but I am interrupting the planned order because the legislative council is due to consider legislation allowing addiction as a treatable condition for medical marijuana certification today, which is an unexpected turn of events. As Catherine Lewis explained it to me, the council is considering whether to allow legislation to be drafted and submitted at this late point in the session, so the proposal does not have an LD number attached to it yet.

Due to this turn of events, I’m going to skip ahead in my planned order of posts to highlight content in my interviews that has been specific to opiate addiction and medical marijuana.

— I’ve interviewed six men (at least three were veterans) individually who each, unprompted, spoke of the negative impact opiates (received through medical care) had on their ability to parent. Each became seriously emotional when discussing this aspect of their addiction, and the tears became laughter and smiles when they referred to parenting since getting off opiates through medical marijuana.

— Each talked about opiates controlling every part of their lives, yet never resulting in the feeling of healthiness they were looking for.

— Each spoke with great pride about their lives since being freed from opiates, but their greatest pride, again unprompted, was being able to be the loving connected fathers they wanted to be.

On Tuesday I interviewed a client of Glenn and Catherine’s who asked me not to use his name because he wanted to tell a particular story. He would have used his name were he to omit this part of his life, but he felt this particular experience was so compelling that people needed to hear it. Because he had told me he was anti-marijuana all his life and thought medical marijuana was just “an excuse for a bunch of hippies to get high,” I asked what changed his mind.

Rows of Cannabis plants are seen in a state-owned agricultural farm in Rovigo, about 40 miles from Venice, September 22, 2014. (Alessandro Bianchi | Reuters)

Rows of Cannabis plants are seen in a state-owned agricultural farm in Rovigo, about 40 miles from Venice, September 22, 2014. (Alessandro Bianchi | Reuters)

He said he had been diagnosed with cancer and had been taking opiates for pain. Friends had been trying to convince him to try medical marijuana, but he was dead set against it. He had been exposed to eating it on a fishing trip with friends just prior to a hospitalization, and his friends drew his attention to the fact that he hadn’t been hitting his “Pez dispenser” (joke name for his pill bottle). Normally he had his pills on his person at all times, taking them as soon as the next dose was allowed.

But that wasn’t what changed his mind — that happened in the wee hours of the morning later in his journey. He had decided he wanted to get off the opiates and was in the bathroom getting sick. At this point in talking to me, the gentleman broke off for a moment, crying. I include this fact because, speaking on very superficial measures, this gentleman is a big, burly guy — that American man’s man — someone you’d look at and think, I’m not giving him any trouble.

Not somebody you’d look at and expect to see weeping, shoulders slumped, speaking in a small voice drowned in painful regrets. His sudden change from the happy mood of the fishing trip took me by surprise. He went on to tell me that his young daughter came into the bathroom where he was on the floor in front of the toilet, repeatedly getting sick.

She came up behind him “to comfort me, and I snapped. I didn’t hurt her, but I just snapped.” He said he was loud and scary, and when he saw his “reflection in her eyes,” it was something he never wanted to see again. He said, “I started pounding pot,” and he “cried for days.” Now he follows a medical marijuana regimen specific to his needs and loves “to get down on the floor and play.”

Here’s a video of Glenn and Catherine describing their experience that I planned to include in the post about them, but I’m sharing it now because he and Catherine refer to the positive impact medical marijuana had on their family. There is much more to their story that I will be sharing, and there is much more informational context I would have preferred to share first.

However, today, the legislative council has an opportunity to broaden the ways we can save lives. Right now. Two hundred seventy two people died of drug overdoses last year, and many were related to prescription opiate abuse.

Glenn saved his own life, has contributed to saving the lives of others I have interviewed, and would like to be able to contribute to saving the lives and families of others legally. I hope our legislative council is listening.

 

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.