I began to suffer from persistent stomach aches in my early middle school years. School nurses typically dismissed me as “faking it” to skip class. By the end of middle school, I was skipping every lunch in order to avoid the pain and keep attendance.
I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in freshman year of high school – which may be one of the most awkward times in life to receive terrible news. No one really knew what to say to me. Most of my friends were too young to understand what was happening. I got teased for the side effects of prednisone, which gave me acne and made my face swell up. I began to eat less and less. I could never talk to anyone about what I was going through.
Crohn’s disease is a chronic illness. At age 14, it feels like a life sentence.
By sophomore year, I was only in class every other day or so. I was often too tired to understand what my teachers were talking about. The various medical treatments I tried for my Crohn’s disease were not helping. I concluded my life was in a downward spiral, I just didn’t know where it was leading.
In December 2006, my mom showed me how to smoke weed. She had researched the effects of cannabis on digestive disorders, and knew I was desperate for a way out of my suffering. I began to see immediate relief and started eating more normally – when I was at home, at least. Since I obviously couldn’t bring weed to school with me, I continued to skip meals when I attended.
Ever since then, mom and I have been criminals in our own home state. She has continually put herself at risk of being arrested, in order to get the medicine I need. In this environment, I’ve grown up to be intensely paranoid of the police. Even before being arrested in 2013, I suffered from recurring nightmares about police raiding my school.
While my mom and her boyfriend were still in jail, this news article started circulating around the internet, about a Canadian boy who is allowed to use a vaporizer in school for his Tourette syndrome. It’s sickening to think how different our lives could have been if we’d simply grown up somewhere else.
Since the jail incident of 2013-2014, I live in a state of constant uneasiness. I was recently granted a membership to a Native American Church, which allows me to possess cannabis as a sacrament. This still does not ease my paranoia, because I live in Alabama and I’ve already been to jail. I can’t imagine what it would be like to live in a place where my medicine isn’t illegal to possess. Like Colorado, California, Michigan, or any of the other 20+ states that have laws for medical marijuana.
I’m more paranoid for my mom than anyone. Everytime she goes out to get my medicine, she’s risking going back to jail. She may have protection from a Native American Church as well, but that may not matter to a police officer from Alabama.
Cannabis is one of the main reasons my mom got nothing in her divorce. Because she admitted to giving it to me for my health, my father’s lawyers and family tried to paint her as an unfit mother. The irony here is that my father is a cocaine addict. Regardless, when the judge ruled that my father owed my mom and I nothing in October 2011, it was devastating. We ended up moving from my home 6 months after that, and we’ve been moving ever since.
Cannabis is the main reason I’m always broke. Since I am at the mercy of the black market in Alabama, I often find myself paying $300 for an ounce of whatever I can find. In other words, I’m constantly being ripped off because I have no other options. This is what any caretaker or patient has to go through in an illegal state. Meanwhile if you’re sick in Colorado, you can get an ounce of good weed for less than $200 from a legal dispensary. If I lived in Colorado, I might actually have money to save up at the end of every month. It is insane to think about all of the money I’ve spent over the years just to keep myself out of the hospital.
My point is even if I manage to make it to Colorado, there are still thousands of families being put in this position every day. I don’t think most people really appreciate how much prohibition ruins so many people’s lives.
Fellow activists and lawmakers are trying to get legislation pushed through the Alabama Senate, but we’re struggling just to get it on the floor. I don’t have high hopes for Senate Bill 326, simply because it seems too progressive for Alabama. Last year’s “Carly’s Law” was a CBD only bill, and even then it’s taken a year to get approval from the FDA.
I hope I am wrong. But I fear like many others, I will be leaving my home for the sake of my health before Alabama ever legalizes cannabis for patients.