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Nation’s cannabis laws violate patients’ rights


Each morning, I awake in pain, the same condition as when I finally could take refuge in sleep. Pain remains my constant companion, more faithful than my guide dog.

More tortuous still, each morning I awake knowing that my government will torment me most cruelly and unusually, and brand me as a pariah because of my disabilities and one of the medicines that I use to treat them: cannabis.

Each day, every member of Congress decides to threaten my liberty, my property, my health and my safety. At breakfast, the attorney general shrugs off the Bill of Rights and any kinship that I might have with it. I cannot travel freely with my medicine, nor can I work or live where I wish. Unlike other citizens, I cannot gather socially with other cannabis patients at a community center, concert venue or restaurant knowing that if need be, I can use my medicine.

If charged with a federal crime, I could not present defense evidence of my medicinal cannabis use in a trial. If I ran a state-legal cannabis business, I could not take standard business tax deductions, nor would I have access to banking services.

My disabilities and chronic pain do not define me, though they always challenge and sometimes limit me. Until my health failed, I practiced law and taught at a university.

After unpleasant trial and error with pharmaceutical drugs, I discovered cannabis as an effective treatment for pain and nausea stemming from chronic migraines, trigeminal neuralgia, arthritis, degenerative disc disease, sciatica and a skull fracture. Cannabis has helped me to be more pain free, more productive, happier, more social: in short, to have a better quality of life.

Armed with that knowledge and with my legal and educational background, I founded one of the first eight licensed medical cannabis dispensaries in Oregon and sought to teach others how to legally operate under the new program guidelines to benefit the health and safety of my fellow citizens, who also face daily health challenges.

As a disabled cannabis patient, the federal government’s misclassification of cannabis as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act wrongs me and millions of other citizens. A Schedule I drug must have no accepted medical use; it must have a high risk of addiction, and it cannot be safely managed under supervision in medical treatment.

However, researchers now know that cannabis is one of the least addictive drugs with few serious health risks, even for chronic users. Its medical utility is recognized in 26 states and the District of Columbia.

Further, the federal government has a medical patent on cannabis, and still provides four Americans with monthly medical cannabis under a now-defunct compassionate program.

This scientifically unsupportable listing confines me to Oregon, for if I travel with my medicine, I risk a federal criminal conviction. If I travel without it, I face the prospect of suffering debilitating pain without relief, or trying to find some semblance of safe, effective medical cannabis on the black market of a strange city. There is no legal, scientific or moral basis for my confinement, suffering or heightened peril.

Oregon, too, which has recognized medical cannabis use since 1998, and adult recreational cannabis use since 2014, confines me to house arrest without a trial. As a medical cannabis patient, I can use my medicine only in my home or unobtrusively on private property, with caveats. For all practical purposes, this state policy chains me to travels in my city, and errands that are quick enough to be manageable from a pain control perspective.

This flawed policy arbitrarily limits my ability to participate in the length and breadth of scenic, cultural, social, political, economic and educational opportunities afforded to all other citizens throughout the state.

My state government chooses to use my suffering as its cash cow. Oregon continues to exact higher fees and greater burdens on sick and disabled citizens, who are economically and physically fragile. Unlike other citizens, the state penalizes me for my disabilities and for the fact that I need someone else to grow my medicine because my health prevents me from cultivating it.

Some medical cannabis patients pay $600 per year just to gain access to their medicine. For those whose disabilities leave them without an income or other resources, the state’s arbitrary burden is too great, too cruel.

Oregon has allowed cities and counties to place a moratorium on medical cannabis facilities. The disabled medical cannabis patients in these areas must drive, if possible, great distances to gain access to their medicine or suffer terribly. To place such hardships on this specific group of disabled citizens is unconstitutional, inasmuch as it imposes burdens they specifically are ill-equipped to meet and that are faced by no others seeking access to their legal, physician-recommended medicine. The ignorance and avarice of the few cannot be the basis for the torture and suffering of the many.

Government must concern itself with the health, safety and liberty of its most vulnerable citizens: It must deschedule cannabis! To maintain the status quo violates the Bill of Rights, tortures disabled and dying citizens, and favors the economic interests of a few at costs to all.

David Guy Evans of Eugene (davidguyevans@hotmail.com), a lawyer and cannabis industry consultant, is founder and former owner of Emerald City Medicinal and Alpha Cannabis Testing Services.

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