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What Could Have Been: The Story Of My Dad And Marijuana

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The dominoes of prohibition seem to be falling fast these days. Although nationwide recreational marijuana doesn’t appear to be happening any time soon, the medical part of the marijuana question is gaining momentum. A bill has been introduced in congress that will remove Marijuana from the list of Schedule 1 drugs as well as removing federal interference with state medical marijuana programs.

I greet this as wonderful news. I occasionally ponder what will happen to me as a longtime smoker of herbs, if and when I wind up in a nursing facility for my sunset days. While I hope to just wake up one morning dead, I doubt things will work out like that. We seem to go to excruciating lengths these days to prolong life. But quality of life rarely seems to accompany the extension that modern medicine gives us.

I’m at the age that I’ve witnessed this first hand. If you live long enough, you will eventually bury your parents. And there’s a chance that you will have to watch their slow fade from this world. They may make their exit like my mother. She got up out of bed, fell back on it and left this world. My Dad was not so lucky. His suffering was long before his body finally just gave up. And in truth, the medications that were prolonging his life, or at least trying to dull the pain, caused as much trouble as his maladies did.

I have no studies to verify this. But I was there for the whole thing. Life worked out that I was the one who moved back home in an effort to let Dad live out his days there. A task that was both horrible and wonderful. We were always pretty close, but we shared more with each other in the last 3 years I lived with him than we had our entire lives. That was the wonderful part. The horrible part was trying to deal with his pain during his slow descent into the hereafter.

Without listing all the maladies that accosted him through his last years, the pain from these maladies was his biggest problem. Initially it was treated with Tramadol, then he proceeded to Lortab and then on up to the highest strength and dosage of Oxycontin allowed by law. It was such in his late days that a 20mg Oxycontin every two hours wasn’t enough. There were also tranquilizers and sleeping pills in the equation. This wasn’t just his last few weeks. This took place over his last 3 years with the last year being the worst as he was so medicated that he was mostly disconnected from this world.

But before he’d reached that point and when it was obvious that pain control was going to be the big issue, I decided to approach him about trying marijuana – tinctures in particular. This wasn’t exactly an easy thing to do. Even though he may have appeared to the world a frail old man, this was the main authority figure in my life. This was the man that had always had my respect, and it had only grown throughout the years. We’d even got through my teen years without alienating each other, though that was the time in life that he discovered his only son smoked pot. With the year being 1976, the usual freakout commenced. He even went so far as to comment that he’d rather I drink alcohol than “do drugs like pot.”

It was a different time, kiddies. Don’t judge. This man was born during the “Reefer Madness” days.

He had seen marijuana demonized and made out to be the equivalent of heroin his whole life, and he had no reason to question it. After being caught that day, long ago, I’d always kept my smoking habit a secret. It was just something we didn’t talk about, and our relationship didn’t require that we did.

When I saw they were going to be close to running out before he could renew his pain pills, I decided it was time to pop the question. I caught him after dinner one night when he seemed to feel fairly well and clear-minded. I asked if he would, were it available, try marijuana and see if it helped with his pain? I didn’t tell him that my pipe and bag were already waiting just down the hall. Tinctures and edibles would’ve been better for him and I had an idea where I could track some down.

His first reaction was absolutely to the negative. His respect for laws, no matter how unjust, was complete. I then spent the next hour trying to undo almost 80 years of propaganda. He’d mention that he couldn’t handle the smoke. I countered with the edibles and tinctures argument. He mentioned that it was illegal. I countered with “so is speeding, but people do it sometimes.”
This went back and forth for awhile until the main problem came out: he didn’t want me to get busted or lose his house because of it.

Keep in mind this was before recreational weed had passed in Colorado. I was definitely going to have to hit the streets to find the edibles or tinctures he needed. But being a herb lover brings you in contact with people who can help with such things. I mentioned the fact to him that it wasn’t too risky, and if it would help with his pain, I didn’t give a damn what the risk was.

When you’ve watched the toughest guy you’ve ever known literally cry because of his pain, that does something to you.

I told him that worrying about me was no reason not to try it. But my Dad, being like he was, he didn’t want me to take that risk. Seeing that this was going nowhere, I asked if we could talk to his doctor about it. And at our next visit, we did. The doctor’s official answer was that he could technically discontinue giving him his pain medications were he to find illegal drugs in his system. Although he gave a halfhearted amendment of “but I probably wouldn’t do that”, it was too late. The question was off the table as far as my Dad was concerned.

Secretly, I did put feelers out for anyone who could hook me up with tinctures, but by the time anything was found, his situation had put him through a series of hospital and assisted living stays. He was on heavy narcotics the rest of his days and I was replaced by home health care looking after him. He did get to spend his last days at home. He knew he was there and that seemed all he really wanted.

Meanwhile, I was left to wonder if my Dad would have been more comfortable with tinctures his last 3 years. Could he have avoided the stomach issues and constipation that are a byproduct of today’s man-made opiate painkillers? And I wonder if he’d been able to maintain more of an appetite and sleep better using tinctures. But such questions are best let go, as they will keep you up at night.

He’s been gone two and a half years now. The stress of watching a loved one fade and the grief after they’re gone have subsided. I look back now and it doesn’t hurt as much. But still there lies a little bit of anger at the powers that be in this country and the history of unjust laws.

I would have had to commit a felony to help with a loved one’s pain, not to mention risk my job, his house, his continued insurance coverage… the list goes on and on. All because, to condense Washington’s stance on the subject into one sentence, “drugs are bad.” I suppose they are. That must be why the pharmaceutical market had a 42% profit margin last year.

But, I’m happy that those same powers that be are starting to come to their collective senses about the travesty of their drug war. Because there is somebody out there, right now, who is starting down the road I just traveled. It’s not an easy road by any means, but getting government and law enforcement out of the equation when looking for help with pain would help immensely. And an even better reason to be happy: I now stand the chance of being able to use marijuana as a medicine if I land in a nursing home.

But a better case scenario would be that I didn’t screw up too bad raising them and one of my children will let me move in with them.

Maybe my grandchildren will be able to get a hold of some good stuff.