The scientific community may be split on the medicinal value of marijuana, but don’t tell Tacoma lawyer Ralph Seeley it doesn’t work.
Seeley said he smoked pot for the first time to combat nausea from chemotherapy treatments for bone cancer.
Marinol, a synthetic version of the active ingredient in marijuana, kept him from vomiting only if he took it well ahead of time, generally was useless once nausea set in and got him too high for too long.
“You take a tablet at 10 a.m., at noon the next day you’re still losing arguments with the doorknob,” Seeley said.
“What I discovered is if I relied on legal medication, I would be very sick for a very long time and watch a lot of $3.11 tablets disappear down the toilet - and if I got one down I’d ruin the next day, be so damned stoned I couldn’t function,” he said, “but if I smoked marijuana, 5 or 10 minutes later I’m done, I’m fine.”
Seeley’s physician, Ernest Conrad, a Seattle orthopedic surgeon who specializes in cancer patients, said he was concerned about the effect of the smoke on his patient’s lungs but still would prescribe marijuana to him if he could.
“I don’t personally feel like withholding that from him,” Conrad said. “It’s a matter of what you think is reasonable for a terminal patient.”
Because marijuana appears to help some, there’s been a boom in “buyers clubs” that supply patients who insist it gives them relief from their ailments and medical conditions.
Law enforcement officials counter that there is no hard scientific evidence to support that claim, and marijuana remains illegal to prescribe. Now police have raided one of the clubs.
Especially prominent among the complaints eased by pot is loss of appetite among AIDS patients, nausea from chemotherapy for treatment of cancer and pressure from fluid within the eye from glaucoma.
“There are people who are starving to death because they can’t get the medicine they need,” says Joanna McKee. “There’s nothing in science that works as good as the munchies.”
She and her partner, Ronald “Stitch” Miller, supplied seven-gram pill bottles of pot at little or no charge as “Green Cross Patient Co-op” until police raided their trailer on Bainbridge Island earlier this month. More than 160 marijuana plants were seized, making it the biggest drug raid in memory on the island, Bainbridge Police Chief John Sutton said.
Allen St. Pierre, deputy national director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marjuana Laws, said it was the first raid nationwide on any of the more than two dozen buyers’ clubs. One in San Francisco has 4,300 members, St. Pierre said.
McKee, who uses a wheelchair to move more than a few feet, says she smokes pot to ease muscle spasms, migraines and epilepsy from head and back injuries.
Until two years ago, she merely grew her own.
“I’d heard about AIDS patients,” she said. “I thought I could share.”
Wrong, said Sutton, spokesman for the multi-agency West Sound Narcotics Enforcement Team.
“We’ve never had any kind of policy other than marijuana is illegal,” he said.