Ten years ago, when Steph Sherer started using medicinal marijuana as a way to cope with the chronic pain caused by a neck injury, she didn’t know she’d be at the forefront of a movement that would spread throughout the United States to the one million patients who use cannabis to help treat serious illnesses, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and HIV/AIDS.
“Two days without an anti-inflammatory medicine, my body starts to stiffen up, and after about three days I can’t get out of bed. So, that could be my life; that is one choice,” Sherer said. “Or the second thing is I could take the 2400 mg of ibuprofen each day that are required for me to be able to move, and then my kidneys would begin to shut down again.”
Instead, Sherer, 36, began using medical marijuana to deal with her pain and became an activist on the issue by creating the nonprofit organization Americans for Safe Access (ASA), which protects patients’ rights to safely and legally access marijuana throughout the U.S.
ASA started in 2002, and since then it has helped create and get legislation passed on the local and state level and is an advocate for patients’ rights in 17 states and Washington, DC where medical marijuana is now legal.
On Thursday ASA held rallies in at least 15 cities across the U.S. at local campaign headquarters for U.S. President Barack Obama, protesting what they call, a nationwide crackdown on medical marijuana facilities.
“There have been more raids under Obama in three-and-a-half years than eight years of Bush,” Sherer said, during the rally in Washington, DC.
Proponents of medical marijuana say they are also upset with Obama, because of comments he made while campaigning in 2008. He said that state and local governments should be the prevailing bodies to handle regulation of medical marijuana dispensaries and not the federal government, explained David Bienenstock, west coast editor of High Times and High Times Medical Marijuana.
“No one in the medical marijuana community expected him to lead on this issue, but we expected him to keep a common sense promise,” he said.
In an interview a few months ago, Obama addressed the issue of the recent offensive on dispensaries and his earlier statement in 2008, where he said the U.S. Department of Justice should not “try to circumvent state laws (on medical marijuana).”
“What I specifically said was that we were not going to prioritize prosecutions of persons who are using medical marijuana,” Obama said in an interview with Rolling Stone earlier this year. “I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana-and the reason is, because it’s against federal law.”
But, Bienenstock said the federal government has been intervening on the local and state level and shutting down some medical marijuana dispensaries in different parts of the country, as well as making it difficult for others to rent a facility for their cannabis business. This, in turn, makes it impossible for some patients to receive the medicinal marijuana they need and forces many to go to the black market to obtain it, according to Bienenstock.
“A lot of people in the medical marijuana community feel very betrayed by these enforcement actions,” Bienenstock said. “If you have a senior citizen with a debilitating condition, and you are now asking that person to go out on the street to get their medicine, it just has a terrible effect on them. How is a 79-year-old going to go out and buy pot for pain problems?”
“This issue has not really come up in our presidential race right now, and Obama has the luxury of running against someone who is against marijuana,” said Bienenstock, referring to Republican Mitt Romney. “I don’t think he (Obama) has realized that there is a political cost to disenfranchising so many people and going back on his word.”