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