PACT REVIEW 12-12-2013


On a cool December afternoon a group of patients came together for the 1st meeting of a new patient support and empowerment group called PACT; the Patient Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics! As Director of Patient Outreach for Texas NORML in culmination with The Austin420, in order to be more involved and interactive with fellow patients, I wanted to create a safe-place for patients who not only sought out a place to share their experiences, commonalities, and concerns, but who also sought out a place to obtain the empowerment and discipline to take action. And by action I mean, empowering ourselves with the correct knowledge, manner, discipline, and etiquette required to adequately address the Texas Legislature about the issue of seriously-ill patients and the numerous amount of benefits that cannabis as medicine can provide.

While we understand and agree about the significance of ending "marijuana arrests" altogether for everyone, we also understand and believe in maintaining the voice of patients whose issues and concerns go much further beyond just the bud. There is so much more to it when talking of oils, concentrates, topicals, tinctures, medicated edibles etc; we have only just begun to tap into the medicinal potentials of cannabinoid therapy and what it can do, especially when it comes to saving lives.

I was surprised, but yet not so surprised when I saw the wide demographic of patients who joined us that day. We had a couple of walk-ins who at first were just grabbing their coffee and had no idea of what the meeting was all about, but found it interesting enough to partake in our discussion. We also had a couple drive out from as far as Tyler, Texas which was quite motivating and simply a great compliment to PACT all by itself. We were happy to fill the "cellar" at Genuine Joes with about sixteen of us; I myself was excited considering that this was the place where I first began my public activism two and a half years before.

We went over establishing the core-objectives of PACT touching briefly on the topics of achieving empowerment, the cannabis closet theory, the discipline, manner, and etiquette required in addressing our issues, the art of spiritual warfare and conquering our own demons, and the intention to maintain PACT as a safe, sacred and compassionate place for patients. We then "opened the floor" for the remainder of the meeting and one after another, each person introduced themselves, told us a bit of their story. I was amazed by the commonalities we all shared as patients, but what "took me" the most, was the diversity of each person's story and how each story stood out in its own unique way. As we went about the room from one person to the next, it was clear to see that we only became more and more comfortable as time went by; the full essence of PACT came to life as there was a warm, intimate, and compassionate energy floating about, you couldn't touch it but you could most definitely feel it.

One of the most touching moments came by way of a mother who had expressed herself and shed some tears over her young child who currently suffers with epileptic seizures. The best part of her revealing that truth was in the fact that she had found a safe and comfortable place to have the courage enough to express it; that alone invoked tears of sadness, but it also invoked tears of joy, it was as if a terrible weight had been lifted. I'm happy that PACT can be a safe, sacred, and compassionate place that is able to provide some comfort, guidance, understanding, and consolation to an already stressful and painful situation; taking that first step to come out of the cannabis closet is truly where the first act of empowerment begins. The whole purpose behind PACT to help ease some of what patients and parents of patients are having to cope with, beyond the spectrum of cannabis, is what truly came to light. ~



Empowered Out Of The Cannabis Closet


While this article could pertain to practically anyone with legitimate concerns about stepping out of the cannabis closet, its sole purpose is directed toward patients specifically. We all have our own reasons to why we’re involved in this movement, from taking a stand against the injustices of prohibition, to taking a stand for the protections of our children, to just taking a stand for an issue we simply believe in; regardless of the fact, we all have our reasons to how this movement has affected us personally. Now, when it comes to the thousands of patients who are suffering with chronic debilitating conditions where cannabis can be of significant benefit, the majority of the concerns often lie within the spectrum of healthcare, safe-access, and legal protections. In an effort to expand the level of patient outreach within the medical community (the ones who stand to gain the most from marijuana law reform), it is the patients themselves who unfortunately are the least able to do anything about it, therefore there is a great need (for those who are able) to encourage patient empowerment and patient advocacy for not one patient can do it alone.

In coping with a serious medical condition there are many aspects that one must come to terms with, aspects that stretch far and beyond just the physical pains and symptoms of the condition itself. When experiencing the on-going trials of a progressive ailment or disease, the physical tasks of making adjustments is one thing, but when it comes to the psychological aspect of coping with these adjustments, that is an entirely different beast altogether. Finding peace and acceptance to the physical adjustments one makes is a much longer and difficult process, mentally, that what it is to adjust to physically. Within the psychological aspect, one must always keep in mind of the emotions of anger, frustration, anxiety, and fear that can be invoked by the daily struggles one faces. These emotions often come into play (whether we want them to or not); it’s just what comes with the territory, but with each new trial we overcome, the more we discover our own capabilities of the inner strength we possess.

In addressing the issue of the cannabis closet theory, it’s within the psychological aspect where the emotions of fear, intimidation, and anxiety can often inhibit or halt a patient to come forward about what may be helping them simply because of its illegality and intimidating possible repercussions. That stress or baggage of living in fear is quite a bit to carry on one’s shoulders especially when a patient should be more concerned about just coping from one day to the next, rather than being consumed by the fears of incarceration or prosecution for using cannabis, a substance that just may be helping them gain a better quality of life. I speak of the psychological aspect of coping with a debilitating condition because it is the center-core of our emotions, of our fears and anxieties; it is where these emotions live, grow, and dwell, if we let them. I can personally relate to the emotions of fear, intimidation, and anxiety because I have experienced these emotions myself. I didn’t just step out of the cannabis closet with a blazing sense of confidence; it was a growing process that indeed took some time to manifest.

I had become sick and tired of living in silence (in secret) and had inevitably reached a point where I continually pondered a question I simply could not answer! I was questioning my options about a condition that had no cure and was simply beyond my control. I was only torturing myself by doing this, so it became quite clear and obvious that a change needed to happen; I needed to escape from the imprisonment and fear of my own mind, because if I didn’t, I would have only been consumed by it. I realize and understand that each of us live and cope with our own circumstances and that how we react to these circumstances can differ from one patient to the next. But for me, the change that needed to happen didn’t come along until the issue of medical cannabis had become personal; no longer could I live in silence about the answer I had in using cannabis for medicinal purposes, but I also had to seek out protections for my caretaker, my physician, and myself (as a patient). From my point of view, this had become my calling; I had to open up about what was helping me with my pains and symptoms that had resulted and still are present today, from a chronic debilitating condition in Becker Muscular Dystrophy. Stepping out of the cannabis closet included many factors, from obtaining legal protection to integrating myself with like-minded others, because we all know about the concept of the "power of numbers", therefore, I wouldn’t be going at it alone.

My formal integration came by way of a Texas NORML interview I had conducted for the 2011 Spring Edition of The Austin420, with then Executive Director, Josh Schimberg. Not only had I met someone who could present me with an opportunity to get behind a microphone and tell my story, but I had met a mentor and a friend who would help me harness the full potential of my voice and my own truth to power. I have always stated that with the right assistance and with the right discipline, there is no challenge or wave of adversity that can’t be overcome regardless of the circumstances. Anyone can step out of the cannabis closet, but for the mind of a patient the challenges can become even greater in doing so, especially when a lack of physical mobility becomes an issue. Through the course of these trials, not only did Josh and I overcome these challenges together, but I myself gained a growing level of confidence, discipline, and self-esteem unlike any other time before. Though quite static at first, I would soon find my niche and begin to bring out the true passion and reality of my own truth in a way that was truly my own. I had become liberated never realizing what we had created in those two years of working together. And what did we create? Nothing more than the absolute essence of what I like to call patient empowerment!

It’s quite important that we continue to provide the right information regarding medical cannabis and the many therapeutic and medicinal benefits that it can provide for seriously ill patients. It’s this information that can propel one to not only learn of the facts and information, but to use this information as a spring-board to get involved about what one may feel so passionately about, one who no longer chooses to live in that silence of fear and understands the importance of getting the message of medical cannabis out to the forefront. That is the first step to the path of full-on patient empowerment and patient advocacy. There is no greater power to make change than that of a single voice and the ability to put expression into that voice. There is so much that patients themselves can gain beyond just the aura of public speaking, there is also the building of confidence and self-esteem that one needs and can build-on to get the message across. There is also interactivity and kinship with like-minded individuals, and most importantly, there is activity for the mind. Idleness only brings forth the fear, the silence of darkness, and the various physical and psychological aspects of consumption. It's time to fully liberate ourselves from the trappings of not just our conditions but that of our own minds. Through empowerment lies our greatest strengths that can bring us out of the dark and into the light, we only have to be awakened, and awakened we shall be! ~


1st time speaking at the Capitol - May 2012


A Cause Of Compassion


Many people involved with marijuana law reform understand the idea of compassion, and how it pertains to the fight for legalization. But some may not know, or understand, that often compassion must be projected through actions, not simply a communication of our understanding. For those who have family, friends, or loved ones suffering from serious medical conditions, it is readily apparent that compassion is much more than a basic feeling, and much more diverse.

For every one we know who suffers from serious medical conditions, and benefits from cannabis, there are countless others we don’t know whose suffering is as great or worse. All of those patients need to have caring and compassionate people around them who can help to ease the pain and suffering or at the very least help to make the daily routine of life as smooth as possible. In order to effectively provide for the needs of patients, one must first, try to come to an understanding of what those needs are. 

Over the past decade I have learned so much about the conditions that cannabis can help to alleviate, and the needs of those suffering from seriously debilitating illness. Being able to interact on a personal level with those individuals has provided firsthand experience with providing compassionate care for them. Of course, cannabis can help with so many conditions, many of which are not severe or incurable. However, for those whose conditions are not only debilitating, and incurable, but even terminal, cannabis can sometimes serve only as a medication to ease suffering, and make them temporarily more comfortable. It is this sobering fact that many people fail to realize, and therefore fail to show compassion towards. Patients with the most serious of conditions struggle daily for comfort, and even for meaningful interaction with others. Unfortunately, for many, it is that meaningful interaction that is missing, which has the real potential to help ease anxiety, provide comfort, and be a source of compassion that many people overlook.

Last year I had the privilege of attending the 2012 NORML Conference in Los Angeles, with my good friend, and producer of The Austin420, Vincent. It was a trip that we both had been looking forward to for many months. And it was a valuable learning experience for me in that I was able to see into the everyday routine which a patient must go through. For those who don’t already know, Vincent suffers from a debilitating, progressive disease, Becker muscular dystrophy, which has nearly completely taken his mobility and severely constrained his personal independence. Patients in situations similar to Vincent’s have daily needs that go far beyond what most people realize. From waking in the morning to bedtime, patients like him require full time assistance with literally every part of their day and all activities. Caring for a patient like Vincent requires communication, understanding, and compassion, as well as time, patience, and caring. For patients whose mobility and independence has been compromised, compassion and care from others is essential for their ability to be seen and heard when it comes to law reform.

Those in the movement who aren’t living with serious medical conditions sometimes fail to realize what it takes for those patients to be seen and heard. Showing true compassion for patients requires at least a basic understanding of what is required for them to be mobile enough to interact with others, and more importantly, to interact with lawmakers and elected officials. Interactions with others are essential for these patients to feel some level of satisfaction, accomplishment, and kinship. Being just a kind listener won’t suffice when you have a friend who requires help to even move his arm, much less lift a drink to his own mouth or adjust the eyeglasses he wears. And this is where the real compassion, the acts of compassion, can play an invaluable role when it comes to working on marijuana law reform; when it comes to helping those with the most at stake to actually play a role in the fight for marijuana law reform.

People who are living with the most serious and debilitating conditions are the ones who stand to gain the most from marijuana law reform, but unfortunately are often the least able to do anything about it. That is where those of us who are healthy must accept the responsibility to help our brothers and sisters to put their faces and personal stories at the forefront of this issue. Showing true compassion for these patients means being willing to ensure they are able to take part in a cause from which they have the most to gain. We cannot allow the patients to be sidelined in the fight, because that is what our adversaries are counting on. We cannot allow our misplaced ideas of compassion get in the way of meaningful acts of compassion, which are necessary to bring attention to the real impact of our government’s failed marijuana policies.

All of this is to say, the cause of marijuana legalization is a cause of compassion, and if those of us who are relatively healthy cannot find it within ourselves to help those who aren’t, then how compassionate are we really? So, the next time you decide to take part in efforts to push for marijuana law reform, whether it is attending an event, conference, or going to the capitol to lobby legislators, check with local organizations such as Americans for Safe Access, Texas Coalition for Compassionate Care, or NORML, to see if there are patients who want to take part but need help to do so. ~