The Medical Marijuana Task Force

Common wisdom states that the only people who have the time to care about politics are students and the retired. But when my roommate was invited to visit Secretary of State Alison Grimes’ medical marijuana task force to watch her announce the introduction of House Bill 166 for medical marijuana, I leapt at the chance to go with her. She arranged a ride with a teacher of hers, and upon his arrival with his partner, we were off to Frankfort.

It took little time for me to get comfortable in the vehicle, and despite the rain making every attempt to be an emblem of the day, we all spoke together on the possibilities medical marijuana could open for the state we live in. While I spend a lot of time either informing people on politics or being informed, very rarely do I get these moments to just build ideas off like minds. It felt encouraging, and confirmed to me that these silly goals like medical marijuana aren’t really that silly, but that people actually put concern in these topics.

When we hit the left turn onto the road leading to the courthouse, I was left in awe of the architecture of the courthouse. The bridge we passed was surrounded by trees on either side, leaving the capitol building in the clear grand center. Its architecture left an impression of permanence on me.

We set foot in the building, made light jokes with the security guards and, after asking directions, we headed to the task force. Walking into the room, I became nervous at the sight of so many people, as I usually do. The people I came with quickly engaged the room. Free copies of the bill were being passed out in the back of the room. The teacher and his partner quickly began going over a copy, while my neighbor started to talk with the one of Alison Grimes’ secretaries. I picked a chair near the front, graciously took a bottle of water offered to me by a guy in a suit, and waited for the meeting to begin.

An older gentleman sat next to me. He had longer hair, a big ring, and a wooden cane. With a smile he began asking me general first-encounter questions. “What county you from?” “What brings you here?” He told me he was a supporter of medical marijuana and that he had just finished organizing his town to build a statue of a local hero. He spoke with pride about that statue, and you could tell the vigor he brought to the tasks that caught his eye.  

Mrs. Grimes then took the stage, with many people filing in behind and around her. She began introducing each person who stood with her. Erik Crawford, who was involved in a car wreck when he was young, began to speak at length about the amount of medicine he was prescribed; it was enough to fill a half-gallon bag. Mr. Crawford, from his wheelchair, began to denounce the effects of his medications, with a special focus on the opiates he’d been given for chronic pain. He demanded an answer to this question: Why prescribe something that leads to 3 overdoses per hour when we have an alternative which does not?

Next to speak was United States Army Veteran Eric Pollock. Like the soldier he is, not a punch was pulled when he opened his mouth. His first statement was that 22 veterans a day kill themselves. He then described his personal experience with a recent friend of his who had committed suicide. “They give you painkillers to lay you down, and then they take them away.” He spoke of the horror of psychological medicines’ extra effects, like sleep paralysis. I was left truly moved.

Many other speakers with other takes on this issue all took gracious turns explaining how beneficial medical marijuana is to communities–from the epileptic, to the depressed. I was left mildly confused at the argument that wasn’t being brought up. So when, immediately after the speakers were finished and Mrs. Grimes began to making rounds to her visitors, I took it as a chance to bring the argument to her.

When I addressed her she smiled and took my hand, listening intently in a bustling room. “Mrs. Grimes,” I explained, “tobacco is a dying crop, but marijuana is the crop to make up for that. Tobacco is soon enough going to be phased out, but marijuana can offer a career path for every hillbilly of this state who wants to work in the soil, me included. My family lost collectively 80 acres over the past decade, mostly because there was no crop to keep it up. But marijuana could’ve been the crop.”

She listened. And in that moment, that’s all I wanted as a citizen–to feel listened to. We were allowed to take our copies of the bill, and we returned home. Since then, our KFTC chapter has organized a vote in fiscal court over a resolution allowing medical marijuana to be dispensed in our town, should the bill pass. And while the ordinance did not pass, we’ve continued to organize ourselves around this topic. Because now that the question of medical marijuana has been asked, the cat is finally out of the bag.  

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