Medicinal…Recreational…and Beyond… by Joel Lindau
The author is a 22-year-old senior majoring in Sociology at the University of North Carolina. He remembers the benefits of marijuana for the treatment of terminal cancer in his father, and the healing of a family separation.
As I sit to write this, tears come to my eyes. I am 22 years old and already I am looking back and seeing the choices I have taken and the positions I now face.
I am preparing to graduate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with a degree in sociology. I was able to attend the university because of my wrestling abilities, but during my junior year I decided to pursue higher education and thus quit the team. With this newfound freedom I joined Carolina NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) and my mind was opened. I now serve as president of the organization and hope to achieve full legalization before I graduate. But this is only the present, and all presents have a past, that “big bang” that starts everything in motion.
My “big bang” happened in the fall of 1985. My father pleaded with me to stay and live with him. At the age of seven, I stood face to face with the man I feared, loved, respected, admired, and sometimes hated and told him that I wanted to live with mommy – that if I must choose between the two people who gave me life, showed me love and nature, gave me good food and discipline, made me feel whole, and whom I loved consciously and unconsciously – mom had my vote.
Perhaps this would have been erased in a child’s mind in the coming years, but things did not let me forget.
Six years later while living in Wilmington, NC with my mom, we got the bad news. My father had been diagnosed with colon cancer. My mother decided it best that they remarry and he come to live with us. Within a month my father underwent a colostomy and was living with us. Being a senior in high school, I had a toddler’s mind when it came to cancer. I was about to get a crash course.
It started with the surgery. I held my father’s hand as the doctors shaved his abdomen and private areas. I watched in silence. While waiting, mom told me what was happening. They were going to cut a hole in his stomach and stick a tube in to drain his waste out into a bag that rested on his belly, creating a foul smell and immense embarrassment for him and me. Next they were going to take a skin graft and sew up his rectal area, which would prevent draining. From this procedure alone, infection, rashes, and more surgeries followed.
Oh, and then there was the matter of the cancer. The next month between chemotherapy sessions, my father was going in for more surgeries and other complications arising from the colostomy. All this time I had to readjust to living with two parents again and caring for someone I loved who could barely make it to the sink to throw up.
I had started using marihuana when I was in the 9th grade. A senior teammate introduced me to it and to all the effects it had on your mind. He told me about memories and time, visions and prophecies. I guess he forgot to mention its effects on the sick and dying. I found this out for myself when mom asked me to buy a bag of marihuana from a schoolmate. This was the biggest shock of my life. My mom told me that one of my father’s doctors had suggested it. She told me that it would improve his appetite and mood and would relieve some of the pain. My whole life I had been taught that like all other drugs, marihuana was bad. That’s all. No benefits whatsoever. I had discovered the social effects of marihuana through laughter, insight, and racial harmony, but now this drug would bring relief to my father, who was suffering so much.
Mom baked a quarter ounce bag in a pan of brownies. The very first time my father ate them the cramps were reduced. He was able to release from the fetal position and lie in bed erect. Instead of wrestling with the pain, he looked at us and told us what was on his mind. He told us his fears and worries, his joys and inspirations. We laughed and cried. And after we had talked for the first time as a family in six years, we ate dinner. The marihuana had given my father his appetite back.
As the days slipped by, mom and I started getting high with my father. This plant not only helped my father’s pain, but it released the tension in the air so we were able to communicate as a normal family. It’s amazing how cancer will silence the strong and dismay the heart. By using marihuana, mom and I were able to enjoy time with my father in his final days. We were able to get out of our cloud of funk that came with the cancer. We were able to heal. My father passed away in the summer of 1993, my senior year of high school. Of course his memory runs deeper than any marihuana brownie he ate, but those memories would not have been so clear without it.
To get one year to catch up and reminisce was not enough, but it was all I was given. Through all the pain we suffered, the rays of light came through due to marihuana.
By seeing what marihuana can do to help the terminally ill, I feel a twisting in my stomach that gets tighter with every DARE commercial and anti-drug reference. How have we, the most industrialized, educated, and powerful nation in the world, thrown out a remedy that is so desperately needed by millions? The thought that someone is lying in bed with cancer and praying for relief but would not even think of a plant to ease their suffering. By lying to the world, we are all the worse. And when I and the others re-educate the world on marihuana’s benefits, we will not be the better. We will have suffered immensely, emotionally, physically, and consciously, but from this we will rebuild and carry on.