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People who use medicinal marijuana in California come from all walks of life. The one thing they have in common, though, is their pursuit to use the medicine that works best for them without persecution or stigmatization. Follow the story of three medical marijuana users as they share their experiences with medical marijuana.
Text by: Carlos Herrera
Country: United States

The use of marijuana dates back to prehistoric times, appearing in all different parts of the globe and societies, from the ancient Egyptians to the Greeks. In the time of the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Greece, for example, marijuana, was primarily used for pain relief.

More recently, in 1937, the United States identified marijuana as an illegal substance, and outlawed the drug. Six decades later, however, a California ballot measure reinstated the legality of marijuana for medical purposes within the state. Last year, California introduced Proposition 19, a ballot measure that aimed to legalize the possession for persons 21 years and older, allowing users to grow up to 25 square feet of the drug in their home for personal consumption, and which would have had an estimated $1.4 billion in revenue, yearly. Regardless of the incentives, Proposition 19 lost by the slimmest of margins: 53.5% to 46.5%.

However, people from all lifestyles continue to take advantage of the current medical marijuana initiative in California, from students pursuing doctoral degrees, young professionals in the computer industry, to middle-aged professionals in entertainment.

My quest to find individuals who defied the stereotype of marijuana users portrayed in films and the media was not very difficult, for a majority of those I encountered lived productive lives and were not at all the delinquents they have been made out to be. Instead, they are living their own personal versions of the American Dream. An American Dream where many are "looking down on us and stereotyping us for taking advantage of resources," as producer, filmmaker, and single mother Kathy put it (she prefers to be called "Kathy" for fear of judgment by the professional community, she told me, as we spoke candidly about her usage).

The typical day for Philipp, who suffers from anxiety and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and is a PhD history student at the University of California, begins with his morning breakfast followed by "lighting up a bowl to help me relax, get through the day without anxiety and have all the focus I can possibly have," Philipp tells me.

When asked if he had sought out different alternatives for his anxiety and ADHD he added: "I did, and I was left feeling lethargic, almost like a walking zombie. Marijuana was definitely not my first choice, mainly because of the stigma that is attached to marijuana users, but by all accounts it has been the only drug that alleviates my anxiety and helps me focus on my many tasks, and it does so without any harmful or upsetting side effects."

After speaking to 26-year-old graphic designer Luna, who has suffered from chronic pain since she hit puberty, she agreed: "I have tried everything from pain-killers, like Vicodin, to natural remedies that just didn’t help! They either left me feeling tired and listless or upset my stomach. Marijuana is the only thing I have tried in years that has alleviated my pain while still allowing me to work full-time, spend time with my husband, and have the energy to produce my own art."

Both Phillipp and Luna follow a very similar routine, much like the routine of any other person taking any other type of medication. They get out of bed, get dressed, have breakfast, take their medication, go to work, come home, have dinner, and take their medication once again eight hours later.

 

Refilling your prescription is not exactly done the way they are refilled at your conventional pharmacy. Instead you go to what is known as a dispensary, which is a specified location in a neighborhood where they issue and prescribe the marijuana. Upon entering the dispensary, they ask for your medicinal marijuana identification card and then present you with an array of specialty grown types of cannabis. All the different types of specialty grown plants target a specific ailment that you might have, from arthritis pain to more psychological problems like ADHD.

The issue behind the legalization of medical marijuana and its taxation in the state of California will continue for years to come. Whether Californians will ever see a resolution to the medicinal marijuana debate remains to be seen. However, one thing remains clear and constant, everyday thousands of new patients discover the power of medicinal marijuana. As for the three patients I met, their struggle to break the stigma that comes with marijuana, to find recognition and acceptance from the masses that medicinal marijuana is the only safe and practical means of relief from their serious illnesses, remains a fight and a battle they are not willing to lose.

 

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