Collectively we’re in the most stressful, challenging and frankly frightful time of our lives. Must be similar to what our grandparents, The Greatest Generation, experienced during the depression and war. Labeled this crisis the Third World War in early 2020. As in times of war, millions of Americans now battle effects of Pandemic PTSD. We need some aloha.
Shocking events in our Capitol Jan. 6th forced U.S. Representative Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) to seek cover on the ground of the gallery in the House, as he hid in terror from an angry mob trying to break into the chamber. How many of our children have suffered similar terror in school? How many families in our inner cities are afraid when the darkness of night befalls them?
Rep. Gomez explains how he has been agitated for days and weeks since the assault — which appears symptomatic of PTSD. Colleagues struggle as well. They’re unable to sleep and worry for their safety and safety of their families. Many heroic troops who served our nation in war or military action suffer like this. PTSD is common unfortunately.
Cannabis for PTSD
PTSD patients have claimed for years cannabis helps them manage PTSD symptoms — chronic indications such as nightmares, panic attacks, hypervigilance, detachment from others, overwhelming emotions, and self-destructive behavior. In some cases, these overwhelming symptoms can trigger suicide.
However, legally medicating with cannabis can lead to social penalties that in turn cause PTSD. I’ve detailed over the past two years the pain and trauma incurred after Hawaiian Electric fired me for being a medical cannabis patient. I suffer many injuries (below).
As a long-term user to manage my chronic pain, I regularly check with an employer when considering a new job or promotion. Did with Hawaiian Electric. Their corporate Code of Conduct suggested my medication would be compliant. To be sure, I specifically asked my assigned HR rep. She reassured me I would be fine. And why not? I’m a non-safety sensitive IT professional who sits in front of a computer in a backroom.
Two weeks later, HR Director Shana Buco fired me. Corporate attorneys Thau Tran and Susan Li supported the decision. My over one hundred appeals to Hawaiian Electric CEO & President Constance Hee Lau remain unanswered. These generally kind, professional executives refuse to meet or speak with me. I’m a drug criminal. Canceled, deleted and erased!
Can’t shake the nightmares, panic attacks, hypervigilance, detachment from others, overwhelming emotions and self-destructive behavior. It’s been two years. Loved my job. Respected the company. Held stock in Hawaiian Electric. Told friends and family about “remarkable” CEO Connie Lau.
My manager, Lori Yafuso, was the “most awesome” coach of my life. Teammates, such as Greg Sasaki, Tom Nii, Liz Oi, Vicky, Emily, Linda, Victor, Sean, Renna and so many more; most talented, proficient and hard-working professionals I’ve known. We were a championship Super Bowl team performing a critical security mission for the company. They needed me; I needed them. More importantly, you need us. We’re ensuring lower costs and reliable service.
After serving six months as a contract employee, and completing a month of processing, including a pre-employment drug screen, HR confirmed my selection for the new position February 20th. Congratulations, they said. Start date would be the 25th. Huge celebration.
Arrived early Monday. Around 11:30am, Ms. Buco fired me. My manager and I were in tears. How could this be? Had checked. Assured my medication would be fine. Confirmed I had earned the permanent position. Fired! “Danger to coworkers, the company and general public,” Ms. Buco said. “Engaged in illegal activity,” she claimed.
Can’t land another position now. Being fired by the state’s most prestigious company is a career-ending event. For speaking out, I’m blackballed by those with power.
The horror continues. Not a day goes by I don’t shake, sweat and feel gripped in an anxiety that refuses to let go. Medication helps, but I rely on this only at night. It calms me, allows me to sleep, but frequently I wake up with nightmares and sleep is elusive after that.
Cruelty of Cannabis Criminalization
For one hundred years, America has maintained a cruel, discriminatory policy regarding cannabis (marijuana). Bureau of Narcotics director, Harry Anslinger, claimed “marihuana” made users violent. He targeted Blacks and immigrants from Mexico and the Caribbean. Falsely linking weed and violence, he argued it should be criminalized. “Smoke a joint and you’re likely to kill your brother,” Anslinger liked to say.
Anslinger’s action wasn’t so much a war on drugs as it was a war on culture, an attempt to squelch the radical freedom of the Jazz Age for People of Color. Anslinger was a xenophobe with no capacity for intellectual nuance, and his racist views informed his work to devastating effect. But he couldn’t have done it, nor reigned as long as he did, without a cast of complicit politicians who shared his bigoted vision for what America should be.
Anslinger couldn’t have done what he did without a cast of complicit politicians. This includes President Richard Nixon who signed the 1970 Controlled Substance Act and used cannabis to harass, arrest and incarcerate Blacks and anti-war protestors who opposed his administration. His select panel had recommended decriminalization. Their research found cannabis to be similar to alcohol.
Recently I criticized Hawaii’s Attorney General for her false and misleading claims about cannabis and driving. She peddles fear and ignores both evidenced-based medical and scientific research.
Time for Cannabis Aloha
Nothing delighted me more than to witness two Democrat senators win in a special election in Georgia this month. Voters selected Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. This gave Democrats control of the U.S. Senate and sidelined Republican leader Mitch McConnell. He has obstructed progress on cannabis for years.
New Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says lawmakers are currently merging various cannabis bills, including his own legalization legislation. Schumer’s bill and the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, which passed the U.S. House in December, would federally deschedule cannabis, reinvest tax revenue into communities most impacted by the drug war, ensure that large corporations don’t monopolize the market, and fund efforts to expunge prior cannabis records. Compassion at last!
Senator Schumer emphasized a critical goal of the legalizing movement is largely equity-focused. If slavery was the First Sin of America, the criminalization of cannabis is the second.
As safety is an important concern for all Americans, leader Schumer said he wants to allocate funds to develop a cannabis breathalyzer to detect impaired driving, “just like you shouldn’t drive under the influence alcohol, you probably shouldn’t drive under the influence of too much cannabis.”
The good senator reminded us we live in a FREE country. We must respect our fundamental principles. He also criticized the history of many false, racist and fear-mongering claims.
“I believe in freedom. Let people do what they want. And it became pretty apparent years ago that all these horror stories, you know, ‘legalize marijuana and crime will go up’—well, states legalized, crime didn’t go up. ‘If you legalize marijuana, everyone will become a big druggie.’ That didn’t happen either.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer
Schumer has also criticized the Institutional Racism and “havoc created in the minority community and the unfairness” caused by enforcement of cannabis criminalization. Men are most impacted by these irrational laws, particularly Men of Color.
“A young man caught with a little marijuana in his pocket, gets arrested, has a criminal record the rest of his life—can’t get a good start, can’t get things done. I decided we should decriminalize it. The time has come.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer
Senator Schumer claims he’s “a big fighter for racial justice, and the cannabis laws have been one of the biggest examples of racial injustice, and so to change them makes sense.”
Time is now he says. “And that fits in with all of the movement now to bring equality in the policing, in economics and in everything else. Our bill is, in a certain sense, at the nexus of racial justice, individual freedom and states’ rights.”
Hawai’i Legislature currently considers three cannabis-related bills:
REVIEW HR7: Legalizes the personal use, possession, and sale of marijuana in a specified quantity. Requires licensing to operate marijuana establishments. Subjects marijuana establishments to excise taxes and income taxes. Amends certain provisions of the criminal code relating to marijuana.
REVIEW SB64: Prohibits an employer from discriminating against a person in hiring, termination, or term or condition of employment based on the person’s status as a medical cannabis cardholder, under certain conditions. Specifies that an employer may use a fit-for-duty test as a tool for medical cannabis qualifying patients in potentially dangerous occupations. Exempts certain occupations.
REVIEW SB167: Requires the Department of Health to submit an application and a petition for federal exemptions for the state authorized use of cannabis in Hawaii from the Drug Enforcement Administration under title 21 Code of Federal Regulations sections 1307.03 and 1308.43.
Join us in this green revolution. Be a part of the aloha future. Please kako’o and help us end this national nightmare. The time for racial and social justice is now.
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Ko’olau of Kaua’i. I am the Defiant One
“I Believe We Can”