Drug Law

Joe’s Story: 19 and a Felon for Using Medical Marijuana

| by NORML
We get letters here at NORML that will break your heart.  I wake up early and leave work late every day to speak up for these voices that so desperately need to be heard.

Hello my name is Joe, I am a 19-year old freshman college student.

Nearly 5 years ago I was suddenly struck with severe stomach pain. After multiple weeks of being tested over and over inside a hospital, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. For the first year or so I was taking 20+ prescription pills a day to combat my disease and keep myself from having to receive the “less than favorable” and dangerous surgery. I am currently taking ONLY 12 pills a day and until just recently was having little to n0 stomach problems.

Before the diagnosis I was an occasional user of marijuana. I researched that marijuana would definitely help my condition. I have never lived in a state that allows the use of medicinal marijuana and that has forced me to remain a criminal in the eyes of our country.

After learning that marijuana would help my condition I began to use marijuana before every meal to do multiple things; marijuana helps me achieve an appetite, digest my food without severe internal stomach pain, and also keeps me from vomiting ferociously after meals. Continuing this self-diagnosis over the years, the amount of Crohn’s Disease flare-ups has reached almost 0,  The amount of prescription pills I take each day has decreased drastically. The life of a college student battling a chronic illness had almost been forgotten, besides the prescription pills I was still required to take.

This was how life was going until January. On this night I was morally forced to have myself arrested to prevent a close friend from being hand-cuffed and taken to jail.

Early in the night I used marijuana in this close friend’s room by myself before leaving to go grab some food. No one else was in this room with me during the time of using the marijuana, and for some odd reason I decided to leave the remains of my marijuana in this person’s room while I went to go get food. The amount of marijuana I had was just under 1/4 of an ounce.

Nearly 30 minutes later I receive a call from my close friend that lived in the room saying, “Hey Joe, the cops are here, and they are about to arrest me.”

At this point I make the decision that I will not let one of my best friends – who does not even use marijuana – get arrested for my ignorance. So I run back to the building, up the stairs, and into the room to find my friend sitting there being harassed by two male officers for having marijuana in his room. The two officers were not only being completely rude but also insinuating that his tip money from work was “drug money” and that he was in fact a drug dealer.

When I enter the room both officers immediately place their hands on their gun holsters pointing flash lights in my eyes yelling “Who are you”, “Why are you here”. I reply very politely “it is my marijuana, you can arrest me”. At this point both officers are completely dumbfounded to find a college student wearing dress clothes (not the tie-dye/hemp fashion attire) that they would expect, asking to be arrested.

That night I was hand-cuffed, thrown in a police car, pulled out extremely viciously, pushed against a wall, searched multiple times, interrogated by three police officers playing “good cop/bad cop” in an interrogation room, and charged with two felonies. When they found my Crohn’s Disease prescription Asacol bottle the officer looked at me and said, “Oh, so you were going to make me look for it”, insinuating that I am some kind of illegal pill dealer.

With that night over with I received my court date and appeared on the specified time. I was tried at the same time as people being arrested with heroin, crack cocaine, and meth. Not only did I receive the same treatment as these hard drug users, I was given the same punishment. On top of all of that, the arresting officers completely lied about the amount of marijuana I had in my possession, stating in the report that I had over a half ounce, which is a little more than twice the amount I actually had. I am to start the Task Program, which is probation, on April 20th of 2010 (ironically enough). With the completion of this probation the two felonies will be removed from my record permanently.

This is where my situation becomes uncalled for. I have no problem with having to quit smoking weed mentally; I am no dumb stoner. So I quit using marijuana completely about 2 weeks ago and it has been an up-hill struggle that I did not expect.

The very first day I did not smoke at all. I did not eat a single meal, did not get hungry, did not even think about food, and I did not even think to correlate the quitting of marijuana with my Crohn’s Disease. The second day was exactly the same, and I became worried why I had not eaten a single bite of food in over 48 hours and was still not hungry. The third day I decided enough was enough, and forced myself to eat a meal. Not even 5 minutes after my first bite I was instantly hit with severe stomach pain and nausea, which I have not felt in years. I was forced to run into the bathroom and vomit and dry-heave for nearly a half hour.

Now I do not need to keep telling the story about my last two weeks, but they have been miserable. I have not eaten more than 1 meal in a day since quitting the usage of marijuana.  I am surprised when I am able to eat more than half a meal without having to stop because of stomach pain and nausea.

I am not going to use marijuana because I will simply not allow myself to have 2 felonies on my permanent record, but I fear I am putting my health at stake at the same time. I feel that I am being forced to choose between either 2 felonies or being healthy. I just hope that my condition does not get worse, and I am forced to get surgery before this 4 month probation period is up. I am not one to complain about anything, but I just thought you people at NORML would find my story interesting at the least.