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. ~