• by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director May 6, 2009



    By George Rohrbacher, NORML Board of Directors, medical marijuana patient

    Science and medicine run deep in my family. My dad and an uncle had Ph.D.s in parasitology and pathology. My dad’s dad was an M.D. Grandpa met my grandmother when they were both attending medical school at the Univ. of California, in 1915. My grandma’s grandmother learned surgical nursing during the Civil War and afterward was the “doctor” for Oroville, California for many years. My mother, brother, and several aunts are all Registered Nurses. For at least five generations, our family has been committed to science and healing. It is from this perspective that I view marijuana as a medicine.

    Like most Americans, I discovered marijuana as a medicine quite by accident. 60-years old, I’ve used pot for over 41 years simply because it makes me feel good. I like it. But who would have ever guessed cannabis was actually helping me stay healthy at the same time?

    A ‘bad back’ is one of medicine’s most oft heard adult complaints, and during my 35-years of farming and ranching, my body has written many a check my back couldn’t cash. Sometimes my back has hurt so bad that if I got down on the floor, I couldn’t get up without help. In the end, after trying numerous back treatments, I found that just plain walking and stretching was the best way to deal with my lower back pain, that is, walking and stretching while consuming marijuana. I had first bunched these activities together so as to allow me to get my hurting back “walked out”, and at the same time, I had the privacy to smoke a little pot out of the sight of my growing children. I soon found that walking and stretching while using cannabis was many times more effective for treating my back pain than just walking without it! Marijuana seemed to relax my muscles, reduce spasms and inflammation. When I later became acquainted with the scientific research on this subject, I found out that was exactly what cannabis, and its cannabinoids, had been doing for my body all along.

    Decades of splitting firewood, pounding fence posts and other such farm work has left me with two ruptured discs in my neck and numbness and pain that sometimes plagues my hands and fingers. Nasty. Sometimes, very, very nasty. Cannabis helps control the pain from these pinched nerves and cannabis helps me sleep at night without killing my liver or kidneys, without causing gastric distress or constipation, and without damaging my sex drive or good humor. Cannabis helps me pursue my non-surgical options, while at the same time it reduces inflammation and muscle soreness from my on-going activities.

    Along with the work-related injuries, I am also a walking encyclopedia of old football injuries, some that still have me hobbling around, four decades after the last touchdown. I’m a big guy, played defensive tackle and lacrosse, too. I loved banging heads. In the process, I’ve separated a shoulder, had a major knee operation and sprained both ankles numerous times. But, am I standing in line for a knee or hip replacement like my no-pot using baby sister or brother-in-law? NOPE! Why no replacements of my damaged joints? I honestly think it’s because of the four decades of cannabis use that I can still walk five miles every day on my banged-up knee and ankles without any pain or inflammation. As it turns out, even the cartilage in one’s joints has cannabinoid receptor sites.

    Oh yes, sure a dislocated ankle really hurts, but for a real front-row seat to the world of pain, there is nothing like a migraine headache. I am one of the unfortunate millions of Americans who have diet-triggered migraine headaches. But fortunately, over the years, I’ve rooted out my dietary ‘triggers’, which include: chocolate, red wine, aged cheese, soy sauce,…and now, I rarely have a migraine anymore. I avoid those triggers like the plague. But in my medicine chest, just in case, to help me deal with one of those aura-producing, skull-splitting migraine headaches that still lurk along life’s path, marijuana is an essential medicine. Almost instant migraine relief is possible for me with vaporized or smoked cannabis.

    In late January, this past winter, we had a freezing fog that glazed-over everything for miles around. I took a dramatic fall on the ice and landed flat on the back of my ass. Both feet went out from under me so quickly I had not even gotten an elbow or finger down to help break my fall onto the ice-covered concrete slab. Well, at least I hadn’t cracked my head, I thought, as I lay there on my back on the ice, testing for broken bones. Slowly I started to move. Yup, I was OK. No broken hip, thank God—just the start of one very, very sore ass from taking the full impact of that drop onto the ice-glazed concrete. I crawled back into the house, went directly to our freezer, and took out a double dose of my special medical marijuana spice cake. About an hour-and-a-half later, my wife and I walked out the door on the start of a slow, but enjoyable, three-mile hike. My pelvis was very sore but, with the cannabis properly applied, it was good to go. I repeated this treatment every day for the next week, cannabis edibles and walking.

    As my bruised butt was healing, I went to see my dentist for a check-up. He looked into my mouth and said I needed a filling, “Nothing too major.” Fortunately I was prepared; I had taken a good dose of my cannabis edibles an hour or so before my appointment, to allow me to sit, despite my injury, without discomfort in the dentist’s chair. I said to my dentist, “No Novocain today, Doc.” He nodded and started to prepare his drill. He’d seen me do this before.

    Cannabinoid receptor sites are primarily in the peripheral nervous system. As cannabis calms the underlying causes of most back pain, the inflammation and tightness of the muscles, the cannabinoids also act on the peripheral nervous system to modulate the pain messages transmitted to the major nerves. The pain from tooth drilling is a bit different, that kind of pain is hard-wired directly into the brain. Cannabis doesn’t block that pain so much as helps a person to simply look past the pain and ignore it.

    In having one’s teeth drilled, due to the fear of pain, virtually everyone trades a very few moments of serious pain from the drilling, for about two hours of having one’s face defrost from the jaw-numbing shot of Novocain. I said, “No Novocain for me today, Doc,” because I chose the pain, knowing medical marijuana would help me overcome it.

    Here’s how: Take cannabis edibles an hour or two before you are to sit in the dentist’s chair. Not flinching while the dentist is drilling your teeth is a big job. You must lie there absolutely still, melted into the chair, immobile. Cannabis is very useful in this process, not so much to block the high-voltage pain from the tooth drilling, but to help your mind reach the meditative state to deflect that pain, so you can let the pain flow over you like water.

    Think of your time in that dentist’s chair like body surfing in big waves. When a crusher wave comes in, you must dive down deep, hold your breath, and let it roll over you. When it’s safe, you can come up again for air. The ocean is too big to fight; you have to hold on until the wave passes. And, it’s the very same thing having your teeth drilled without gas or Novocain. The very second the drilling stops, that tooth pain stops, as well, and you can safely come up for air. With modern high-speed dental drills, the actual total number of seconds of real pain are quite few, providing the excavation isn’t the Grand Canyon (your dentist can help you judge). So, just relax, it’s really not that bad, roll your eyes back, and let her rip! With a little pot spice cake behind you, you’ll be quite surprised, you can handle it! And, it’s only going to hurt for a few seconds, anyway. Afterward, when the drilling’s all done, putting in the filling doesn’t hurt a bit.

    One very nice thing about dentistry without Novocain is you always get the occlusion right, the first time, everytime, because you can actually feel your mouth when the dentist tells you to bite down, and asks, “Is the new filling too high or low?” And then, when the dentist takes off your dental bib, it’s all over; it is really totally over—no frosted face, no needle marks in your gums, nothing else to recover from.

    Without the Novocain shot as part of your dental work, you can walk out of your dentist’s office pain-free after a filling, your cannabis edibles still kicked in, whistling your favorite tune! Now, you try doing that for the next hour or two with your face and lower lip de-frosting from the Novocain!

    I’ve been using cannabis as a medicine for over 30 years, 5 years legally. Washington State’s voters gave me the right to use marijuana as a medicine in 1998; I got my doctor’s recommendation in ‘04. President Obama’s Justice Department has said the Feds will no longer interfere with Washington State law in this area. Decades of worry and paranoia, the fear of a SWAT Team, with their guns drawn, bursting through our front door in the middle of the night, bringing drug dogs to search for my medicine has abated, at least for now. Help NORML end America’s marijuana prohibition for good.

    Achieving proper titration: In the words of the DEA’s own Chief Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young: “Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances know to man…” Advances in technology have come in all areas of modern life and making marijuana use even safer is no exception! In the last five years, I have all but given up smoking pot in favor of using a vaporizer—it’s clean and very tasty, with no tars or fire-created carcinogens—although for mobility and socialization it will always be hard to replace a joint. Achieving proper dosing levels using a vaporizer or smoking is quite easy, full effects are seen in about ten minutes and last about an hour-and-a-half before declining. Homemade cannabis edibles take about 20-40 minutes to kick-in, a lot depending on what else is in your stomach, and some experimentation is needed to find the proper dosing levels; but for long term, high-dose pain relief, edibles are hard to beat.

    Irvin Rosenfeld, America’s longest surviving Federal cannabis patient, has been receiving federally-grown pot for 27 years. Irv finds smoked pot works best for him. He consumes 10-to-15 joints a day to deal with the challenges of living with a rare form of bone tumors that has afflicted him since childhood. A stockbroker handling millions of dollars in transactions, Irv has said he never feels a “high” from using marijuana, even though he uses it all day long.

    About two years ago, when the pinched nerves in my neck were acting their very worst, I began using cannabis at dosing levels where pot’s marvelous, fun and useful psycho-active effects started disappearing for me as well. Damn, it’s the shits to be that sick! Thank goodness, I’m better now.


    1. moldy says:

      I’m a little nervous to forego novocain but cannabis really calms down my gag reflex. It works great!

      I have some degeneration in my lower back vertabrea and have nerves pinching causing burning leg pain. I’ve had a few lumbar injections which help a lot. My last injection lasted 2 years with the help of cannabis but my doctor said, “Pot won’t help your back pain one bit”????

      I tend to believe George more than my doctor on that. Great read!

    2. jake says:

      oh and to prove it chek this: in the last month or two we had three ‘Drug busts’ all yeilding LESS thatn a bowl of pot nd one pipe only. one anon female is my friend and she told me they were threatin to take her kid away and forfiet her car and other things. all they found in her house was one dragon pipe with one bowl loaded in it and nothin else. this is but one example. this is terrible. early americans would not have tolerated this much policing without risin up. WE R SUPPOSED TO BE FREE PEOPLE..

    3. Preston McGuigan says:

      It’s sad that it takes someone this sick to get people’s attention. Thank god he’s alive

    4. Sam says:

      Stories like this bring tears to my eyes. Keep on fighting for what is right… Let the conclusion not come from rifles and riot shields but inquiring minds and straightforward conversations.

      Say thankya, Norml sie.

    5. Reason21 says:

      Such a shame this miracle plant is looked down upon by so many still. Our future generations will look back at this period in time in amazement at the level of hypocracy and ignorance we are currently living in.

    6. Good article!
      – The superior efficacy of cannabis as a pain-reliever,
      the truth about cannabis needs to be repeated OFTEN!

      – Safety-information about VAPORIZERS,
      (Zero-Tar, Zero Carbon-Monoxide),
      needs to be made common-knowledge,
      (esp, when the hazards of ‘smoking’ is brought up…)

      #4 randem Says:
      May 6th, 2009 at 10:45 am

      Err ill keep the Novocain and opiates thank you…

      It’s not just for ‘hippies’ anymore…
      – Cannabis is a far more effective ‘pain-reliever’ than
      ‘pain-killer’ opiates, NSAIDS or muscle-relaxers,
      MINUS their awful side-effects,
      (drowsiness, constipation, nausea, impotence,
      ulcers, tinnitus, hepatoxcity, incoordination, overdose-fatality…).

      – Why should “one of the safest therapeutically active substances know to man…”
      be treated as if it were one of the “most dangerous” any longer!?!

      – If anyone,
      (esp. former ‘drug czars’),
      think that back-pain is a trivial reason to utilize whole-cannabis for relief,
      may they have back-pain 1000 times more severe than my own…!!!

      #6 MIKE STROUP Says:
      May 6th, 2009 at 11:15 am

      …They should be scared.
      Nothing they’ve come up with rivals the work of God.

      When will Big-Pharma stop ‘playing-god’ ?

      – If the Creator of Life, the Author of naturally-occurring plant-genomes is Omnipotent,
      may the Creator’s contributions to herbal-medicine-reform surpass those of
      Big-Pharma’s opposition!

    7. Karyn says:

      i hope norml, mmp and all the other sites advocating medical mj will use this mans testimony on national tv ads. i think i will send this to my governor in nh…we recently passed a law to legalize medical mj, but gvnr lynch may stand in the way and veto it, even though it passed the senate and the people have spoken. i do not believe one man should have that power.

    8. Average Joe says:

      Im tired of listing to people stereo type pot smokers like they do the rest of the country. I am 25 years old and i have been smoking for about 10 years. Now i agree not every one should use the drug, but then again alot of people shouldnt drink or have kids because they are not responsable enough to do so properly, but they do any ways. By saying all pot smokers are not as productive or just plan stupid when they are high is no differnet then saying all black people are gangbangers. And as far as weed being a gate way drug i feel that to be a load of crap. ive never been to look for a “higher high” when i am stoned weed does me just right. Now add alot of liquer to the situation and people will do things they wouldnt normaly do sober or high on weed. Alcohol is the true gate way drug and honestly i cant believe people could not see this before. or they have and didnt say nothing because those people would probably be losing alot of money. If you were to legilze pot that would open so many very needed jobs. It will take money out of terriost hands if all that crap you hear on tv is true. What should we be more worried about the senceless war on pot or the war against terroist that threatin this great country.End the war against pot take that money for our selfs and turn this country around. Any brain dead person can see this why doesnt our goverment.

      thanks for you time

      average joe

    9. Jeff says:

      FoR Lyfe…

    10. Rayvyn says:


      “Dear Amoura,

      Thank you for your correspondence in which you request my support of House Bill 1393, legislation that would legalize marijuana for medical purposes. I appreciate you taking the time to share your views with me on this issue.

      The debate over legalizing marijuana has been on-going since the 1970s. Since that time, proponents of the measure have offered a gamut of rationales to build support for a movement to have marijuana decriminalized. Some of these motivations have included medical benefits, improvements to public safety, and economic revival, just to name a few.

      But for each of these justifications comes an onslaught of expert opinions disputing the claims of marijuana supporters. In fact, a recent report issued by Dr. Robert DuPont, from the Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc. in Rockville, MD cites that “marijuana smoke is known to contain harmful chemicals, which adversely affect all body systems from the brain and the immune system to the lungs and the reproductive system.” He goes on to say that any medical benefit to be derived from marijuana can be found in the synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). In 1985, the FDA-approved drug known as MarinolT and is available to physicians to prescribe to their patients.

      Dr. DuPont maintains in his report that “it is inconceivable the that FDA would approve burning marijuana leaves for any illness given the fact that marijuana smoke is known to be toxic and that smoking is not accepted as a route of administration for any medicine since it is an unhealthy and unreliable drug mechanism.”

      Pennsylvania legislators, myself included, have worked hard to establish laws that support strict drug law enforcement. At this time, I do not feel that supporters of this legislation have produced adequate evidence to substantiate their argument; and therefore, I will not be supporting H.B. 1393.

      Again, I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to contact me and voicing your opinions on this matter. Please do not hesitate to continue to do so in the future.



      Mark K. Keller
      State Representative
      Perry & Franklin Counties
      FAX – 717-582-8979


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