By: Sharon Letts Ten years a cannabis patient, ten years in judgement Ten years ago, in October, 2012, the day the ultrasound technician looked at my oncologist and said, “It must be a technical error,” was the day that changed my life forever. Healthwise, for the good, but the persecution that followed would be […]
By: Sharon Letts
Ten years a cannabis patient, ten years in judgement
Ten years ago, in October, 2012, the day the ultrasound technician looked at my oncologist and said, “It must be a technical error,” was the day that changed my life forever. Healthwise, for the good, but the persecution that followed would be a battle with ignorance I’m still fighting ten years later.
I use the word ignorance in its true sense of the word, not to belittle anyone. Ignorance is ignoring the truth. But, if the truth is hidden and distorted, it’s not their fault. The fault lies at the feet of the distractor. The larger question is, why are they distracting and to what end?
My Truth, My Cross to Bear
I was in mainstream media and had been for ten years prior to using cannabis oil to treat Lobular Carcinoma, a rare, spider-web-like-mass in my right breast. My story has been told many times, but the part of my backstory I haven’t written about includes the judgment and persecution felt and received from every aspect of my life ever since.
When I was in mainstream media I was respected and trusted. Today might be different, as media in general has been tainted as biased – but, for the most part, as a features writer documenting human interest stories; and a documentarian, field and segment producer from television prior, my work was a source of great pride for me – with a livable income.
But, from the minute the ultrasound showed that the mass in my breast was gone, with that first sentence from the technician showing disbelief, my unchosen path of persecution was set before me.
If I had been a different person I may have kept it to myself, aware of the reality and ramifications it would have on my career and my pocketbook – but, I am my mother’s daughter, and she did not sit on her hands when there was something or someone to defend.
Persecution is Personal
When I was in-house as the lead features writer for the Times-Standard in Eureka, in Northern California, I had the opportunity to talk with then District Attorney, Paul Gallegos, about why cannabis farms and patients under the legal medical laws in California were still being raided and sentenced under Federal jurisdiction in Humboldt County.
His reply was stunning, as he implicated friends, family, neighbors and exes as culprits in reporting cannabis grows and patients. Humans hating on humans was the main reason raids and persecution still persisted in the cannabis capital of the world.
To give another perspective, here I was from mainstream media, with weed treating cancer, no longer on pharma, with the knowledge that thousands of people are languishing in prison for a plant.
My own personal persecution began quickly in just about every aspect of my life, including my own doctor at the time doubting me. I soon found a new doctor who not only listened to me, but learned through observing my healing to feel comfortable enough to talk to her patients about their own cannabis use.
Other discrimination soon followed, including the Automobile Club of America Assoc (AAA) rejecting the renewal of my longtime life insurance policy. As a single mother, wishing to leave something behind for her child, this was a huge blow.
My ex and I separated, then parted. During the hearing for support, he too played the drug card, in an effort to discredit me. This forced me to present a photo of him hitting a four foot long joint at 4:20 during a High Times Cup I was covering. All that pain and embarrassment for a plant that should have never been prohibited in the first place.
Technical Errors Abound
The letter sent to me after my six month follow-up mammogram/ultrasound from Humboldt Radiology stated that there was indeed a large area of scar tissue where the mass once was and that it must have been from “a prior surgery,” even though I’ve never had surgery in either breast before or since.
Because I was never diagnosed, with the mass gone in two and a half months before a biopsy could be done, I’m now part of a 30 years study with the American Cancer Society on Prevention.
After the first questionnaire only asked if I “smoked marijuana,” I wrote the director, who then corresponded with me directly, adding intelligent questions on using cannabis as medicine, ingesting, and more, per my request to subsequent questionnaires.
Healer Not Dealer
I moved down to Baja California, giving me the financial freedom to continue to do this work full-time. The cute little cottage on the beach I first moved into was awesome at $350 a month, but it came with a conservative neighbor in his 70s, who immediately began gossiping in the community that I was a drug dealer.
It’s true, I had little old ladies lining up at my door on apothecary days picking up salve, tinctures, and infused honey for pain, sleep, and more. Guilty as charged.
My poor neighbors became confused, though, as shortly after I moved in I posted photos of myself with Tommy Chong at his home in Los Angeles. Is she a drug dealer for Tommy Chong? Is she a drug-runner, a mule?
The following month I posted photos of myself, again, with Melissa Etheridge, at her home in Los Angeles. It was enough to drive the gossip mongers mad.
And it’s important to note, those same little old ladies who picked up the remedies, didn’t invite me to their parties or gatherings. I was helping them, but they didn’t necessarily want to be seen with me. Far cry from my days in mainstream media, when I would have been invited as a special guest.
Since then, I’ve had every landlord and many neighbors judge me and try to play the drug card, to no avail. I say, bring it on. If anything happens to me it’s an international story in the cannabis space, and just another educating moment of advocacy for the plant.
The Shape of the Drug Card
Playing the drug card is a one-size fits all type of deal, and easy due to the decades long negative stigma. I get it. The U.S. Government did an excellent job of demonizing a plant that can heal humans. Well played.
It’s a no-brainer to judge, as the “stoner jokes” are already there. It’s common knowledge that we are stupid, slow, easily distracted, and unproductive. No matter that I must smoke a bit to medicate to focus to write, and that I smoked all through the writing of this piece – my copy and my conscience is clean.
On another note, take away the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and cannabis is just another boring beneficial plant no one will give a shit about.
And to be fair, it’s not the plant’s fault either. We as a species upped the THC to the heights we have today. We alone caused the controversy.
The thing is, if the cancer didn’t go away, and if I hadn’t also done away with upwards of ten pharmaceuticals and supplements for myriad ailments and disorders at the same time, I might not have fully believed in the plant enough myself to do this work..
If it was all a lie – if my entire body of work is based on misinformation and exaggerations about the plant and its benefits, then that would make me a psychopath, right? How could I write about all these miraculous stories of healing for all these years if it wasn’t true unless I was completely delusional?
And what of the patients I’ve interviewed all these years who have been helped? Are they all lying about the efficacy of the plant? What would the motive be just to feel better? After ten years my list of questions is still longer than the truth I already know.
What I’ve learned
Even before crossing over from mainstream media to the cannabis space I practiced the fine art of protecting oneself from mass criticism, with the best advice given, to keep my blinders on and do good work in the face of great persecution.
I’ve learned the lesson of refraining from being a zealot for the plant. I’ve learned the painful lesson of not trying to make poster children out of celebrities who come out about their use. And I’ve learned that the plant isn’t for everyone. It’s a niche remedy right now, at best, and we who know about its healing powers (and workable dosing) are privileged in this knowledge.
I’ve also learned that you can’t ask or expect the masses to fully educate themselves until the U.S. Federal Government acknowledges the medicinal benefits of cannabis as a superfood, and removes it from Schedule 1, as a substance with no medicinal value.
Are we martyrs in the fight? I can only speak for myself and say, this work is a calling. I had no choice. I already had a voice and a pen, and I know nothing happens without a reason. I was called down this path, and my blinders continue to be firmly on. Thank you for reading.
Follow Sharon Letts on Facebook & LinkedIn, Instagram @sharoneletts Twitter @sharonletts
For more information about Sharon’s work and her cancer story visit her website, www.sharonletts.com
Essay by Sharon Letts, Educating Doctors: Talking to Your Physician About Using Cannabis, https://hightimes.com/health/patients-educating-doctors-talking-to-your-physician-about-using-cannabis/