Feds Say Heroin, Doc Says Pot
On November 17, 1994, the Milwaukee
Wisconsin weekly Shepherd Express printed a column about Jacki, as she
was about to leave on her first trip to Washington, D.C. IMMLY was able
to track down a copy of the article, which was lost from the Shepherd
Express archives, through the help of the Milwaukee County Historical
Society in April of 2001. When the article was written, the IND Program
had only been closed for a couple years. Seven years and four painful
trips to Washington later, she is still
waiting for federal authorities to keep their word.
Source: Shepherd Express
Pubdate: November 17, 1994
Author: Scott Kerr
FEDS SAY HEROIN, DOC SAYS POT
In September 1991, Jacki Rickert's doctor signed a prescription that could have made her life a bit more bearable. It would ease her chronic muscle spasms and nausea, and would lessen the effects of chronic joint dislocations and broken bones. And it would help her keep food and medicines down so her weight would stay above 90 pounds and the painkillers could do their job.
Slightly more than a week later, the federal government killed Rickert's prescription. It was one of George Bush's "kinder, gentler" acts. Tinkering with the nation's drug hysteria, Bush shut down the rigid medical marijuana program that Rickert and numerous other patients across the country had already been accepted into. Today, only eight Americans can legally consume marijuana as a medicine.
"Fear, That's why she won't use illegal marijuana," said Jacki's daughter, Tammy, in a telephone interview. Repeatedly they have seen media accounts of police and Drug Enforcement Agency pot busts; the political winds blow too strong for the risk. "If my mother were thrown in jail, she'd probably die."
Next week, Jacki and Tammy Rickert will travel from rural Mondovi, near Eau Claire, to Washington, D.C. to protest Bill Clinton's continuation of the ban. Rickert will be among several medical marijuana patients -- many busted and punished for using cannabis as a therapeutic agent -- joined by medical authorities who will speak out Tuesday at a national press conference and White House protest.
Medical cannabis users, with their physicians in attendance, will publicly demonstrate how they use marijuana to treat their medical conditions in defiance of the law, say the organizers of National Medical Marijuana Day, including a Harvard Medical School professor, a senior editor from the conservative National Review, advocates from Cannabis Action Network and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
In Milwaukee, NORML spokesman Erik Hultmaan says the group is organizing a pro-medical marijuana letter and telephone campaign aimed at congressional representatives and senators to coincide with the Washington rally.
It will be a painful but principled trip for Rickert, who is in chronic pain around the clock and whose travel has been limited to hospital visits. She suffers from Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and Reflexive Sympathetic Dystrophy. Like thousands who endure the effects of cancer chemotherapy, AIDS, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and other ailments, she could benefit from therapeutic use of cannabis. Anecdotal evidence suggests that cannabis could help treat arthritis, migraine headaches, pruritus, menstrual cramps, depression and mood disorders, and alcohol and opiate addiction -- potentially benefiting up to five million patients.
In Wisconsin, the law already authorizes physicians to prescribe pot. But since the feds halted their experimental program, there is no way to legally fill a prescription. State Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Madison) is now drafting legislation she plans to introduce when the legislature reconvenes that would make medical marijuana use a defense in a criminal trial.
"It would hopefully deter district attorney's from charging [in medical use cases], and it would still be up to the accused to prove that their use was for medical purposes," Baldwin says. While her own district surveys mirror national polls saying that up to 75 percent approve of medical marijuana use, lawmakers are not likely to line up in support of Baldwin's bill.
In Rickert's case, the benefits of the medicine are not in dispute, just its legality. She had already been accepted into the (now ironically called) Compassionate Investigative New Drug program when Bush halted it. She can get unlimited amounts of Marinol, synthetic THC, but experiences devastating side effects from it.
"The federal government has even told me they would give her heroin, but not marijuana," says Tammy Rickert. "But heroin would probably kill her. Marijuana works."