Posted by Gary Storck
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Due to intractable pain from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, advanced reflex sympathetic dystrophy and other medical conditions, Jacki Rickert spends most of her time in a reclining position. It's a rare day that she spends much time out of bed, much less out of her apartment, and particularly, traveling to the Wisconsin State Capitol, as she did on Tuesday, July 10.
Jacki in a wheelchair, accompanied by myself, along with Carolyn, a 21 year old multiple sclerosis patient from Sun Prairie, and
two other patients, were at the Capitol to try to put a face on the medical cannabis issue and build support for legislation to be introduced this September.
After visiting and being well received by staff at a number of offices, Jacki decided it was time to visit Assembly Health Committee chair, Rep. Leah Vukmir's (R-Wauwatosa) office, as Vukmir had never responded to a letter from Jacki that was hand-delivered on April 18.
Gary hands Jacki's letter
to Vukmir staffer on April 18.
Her office was a circus of activity as we entered, due to the day's scheduled debate and vote on the Republican-controlled Assembly's budget answer to the Democratic-controlled state Senate's budget. A little earlier, we had sat in the Assembly gallery as the session was called to order, observing until a recess was called for partisan caucusing.
The same gentleman I hand delivered Jacki's letter to in April was seated at his desk, and he recognized me and gave our little party of patients a clearly unwelcoming gaze. I explained we were there to rebut Rep. Vukmir's negative comments:
Rep. Leah Vukmir on medical marijuana
As we each detailed our daily struggles and spoke of the pain, uncertainty and fear of living with serious illness, or watching a loved one suffer, the staffer's response was to smirk. I then requested that he stop smirking, noting that the daily struggles of sick people are very serious.
But Rep. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, who chairs the Assembly Committee on Health and Healthcare Reform, said she will continue her opposition to medical marijuana because of concerns about its safety.
Vukmir, a nurse, said she believes it is better for patients to use medications that have been approved or may soon be available than to have people grow their own marijuana.
"I will refuse to put members through the circus of a hearing for a bill that is not going to go anywhere," Vukmir said. "This is nothing more than a backdoor attempt to legalize marijuana, which is not going to happen on my watch."
From: Wisconsin State Journal, April 10, 2007
But apparently hearing actual human beings relate how illness makes them suffer on a daily basis, and how cannabis helps relieve some of that suffering, was too much to bear.
We were told to leave and when we continued talking, the staff dropped a dime, and 4 or 5 Capitol Police quickly responded, ordering the wheelchair bound Jacki, Carolyn with service dog Bud, Jill and Tom and myself out of Vukmir's first floor office.
14th Assembly District
Room 107 West
P.O. Box 8953
Madison, WI 53708
Telephone (608) 266-9180
Fax (608) 282-3614
It says a lot about the state of health care in Wisconsin when a nurse-practitioner/State Assembly Rep./Health Committee chair is so scared of scientific fact that her staff calls police to clear out patients in wheelchairs. This kind of willful ignorance, as I told Vukmir's staff, is clear evidence that she is unfit to be the committee chair.
Polling in New Jersey has found that voters are nearly five times as likely to vote for candidates who support medical cannabis legislation. Five years ago, in February 2002, the
poll IMMLY sponsored
found over 80% support statewide, and even stronger support in Vukmir's district. I can't understand why this issue, so evocative of traditional Republican values, is publicly supported by so few from the GOP. Just today, Rudy Giuliani, a man who profited handsomely from Perdue Pharmaceutical's hooking of America on oxycontin, lost millions of votes by
ONDCP/DEA propaganda in deeming medical cannabis unnecessary.
While we were in the Assembly gallery, mention was made on the floor of a school in Milwaukee named after Ronald Reagan, sparking great applause from Assembly Republicans. I wonder how many know that Reagan's late aide, Lyn Nofziger was a medical cannabis patient, as was his daughter, who preceded him in death by many years. I met Lyn at a
press conference on July 24, 2002, in the US Capitol with Jim & Cheryl Miller, Keith Stroup, Reps. Barney Frank, Ron Paul, Dana Rohrabacher and other representatives, supporting the States Rights to Medical Marijuana Act. Lyn was very moved by Cheryl's frail condition. I had brought my copy of the late Robert Randall's book, which Lyn had written the forward of, and he signed it simply, "to Gary Storck, Hang in there."
I am hanging in there, but as Cheryl Miller once said, "It's been a long time." It's a pretty sad day for the state of Wisconsin when the Assembly Health Committee chair, in full defiance of the will of over 80% of the people, has police remove people in wheelchairs from her office. People with MS, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, glaucoma, chronic pain and heart problems, aren't the problem. It's obstinate lawmakers who refuse to understand that not only is this a health issue very popular with their constituents, but it is becoming mainstream. For ten years now, medical marijuana has been blocked in Wisconsin. As Ronald Reagan once said: "Tear down this wall."