Betsy Russell, writing in Idaho State Journal, detailed action of an Idaho House committee that voted yesterday to introduce a “very restrictive bill” to legalize medical cannabis (marijuana) in the state. This moves the measure forward to full hearing on the bipartisan proposal from Reps. Mike Kingsley, R-Lewiston, and Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, which they title the “Sgt. Kitzhaber Medical Cannabis Act.”
One of my coworkers, an adorable young woman named Alicia, suffered terminal cancer in 2006. Everyone in our government agency loved this pleasant, compassionate, talented and kind professional. Her work was outstanding. Yet it was her heroic, undefeatable attitude she brought to the office each day that won hearts & minds.
Maybe I hadn’t slept well the night before and felt a bit grumpy; possibly a coworker’s car didn’t start and she was angry; or the freeway was jammed coming to work and my manager was a bit upset. We brought negativity into the work place.
Not Alicia … she was on her fourth and final round of chemotherapy. Hadn’t been working; wasn’t effective now … her body was losing. Alicia was dying … in front of all of us. No longer if at this point; only when now. Yet Alicia kept smiling. She kept being positive. She kept winning — for all of us.
Alicia was in tremendous pain. After her Wednesday afternoon chemo session, she was extremely sick that evening and too weak to report to work the next day. On Fridays, she limped in best she could. Her smile was feeble and faint — but she kept smiling. Bravest person I’ve ever known. Taught me never to complain … don’t complain, just fight. Big difference!
Number of colleagues suggested she try cannabis. Wasn’t legal in New Mexico at the time. Alicia was firm and resolute. Wasn’t going to engage in illegal activity around her two young children. She would rather suffer and die in pain than set a poor example for them. That’s a true hero!
Rep. Greg Ferch, R-Boise, asked Sgt. Kitzhaber why he wouldn’t just cross the state line into Oregon to get cannabis. Kitzhaber responded “as a law abiding citizen,” that would risk jail for him, and was something he simply wouldn’t do.
Alicia died September 2006. Her passing hit all of us like a meteor from hell. There was little joy in Mudville after this. It took our 150+ staff quite a while to make peace with this tragic loss. Hardest part from me was accepting politicians let her down.
Observing the suffering of Alicia, I joined activists in the state working to legalize medical cannabis. We successfully passed the “Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act” in 2007. Alicia died while politicians debated, drank alcohol, smoke cigarettes and cigars — while claiming marihuana was a dangerous drug. No urgency. What’s another year or two to privileged officials?
Heroic Compassion of Sgt. Jeremy Kitzhaber
Sgt. Jeremy Kitzhaber, U.S. Air Force veteran suffering terminal cancer, provided personal testimony about his experience. He crafted his proposal to authorize only strictly-regulated medical use of cannabis in the state for limited types of extremely ill adult patients.
He’s dying. And like a hero who dives on a grenade thrown into the foxhole, Sgt. Kitzhaber now sacrifices for those he will soon leave behind.
Rep. Mike Kingsley (R-Lewiston) has long been concerned about the opioid crisis in Idaho, and he said he believes this bill would help, by providing a less dangerous alternative drug for doctors to prescribe their seriously ill patients.
I stood in Sgt. Ktizhaber’s position in the Idaho legislature. As a high school student, was fortunate to be selected for Boys State. Was privileged and grateful to attend high school and college in Idaho. I left due to the state’s backward political climate.
The Idaho State Journal also hosts many of my athletic accomplishments and photos in their archives. They don’t have these photos (below) … this is what happens after years of high school, college and pro athletic completion. Coaches and fans demand we give 100%. All gave some; I gave all. There’s little left in my body today.
Politicians peddled many deceptions about cannabis when I was a youngster. They left a terrible and tragic scar across America. Too many lies. Nobody trusts government or respects elected officials or has faith in our institutions today. Antifa, BLM, and MAGA … all represent disenchantment and frustration with the way things have been going in America.
Kitzhaber’s bill authorizes medically-regulated cannabis be moved from a Schedule I illegal drug in Idaho to a Schedule II drug, and be available only by prescription in strictly limited and packaged amounts for patients 21 or older with certain specific diagnoses, including cancer, ALS, AIDS, wasting syndrome, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, debilitating seizures and terminal illness.
In Hawai’i, elected officials refuse to remove cannabis from Schedule I designation. The Hawai’i legislature kind of legalized medical cannabis in 2000; kind of gave medical cannabis prescription status in 2015. The nearly 30,000 patients are kind of legal to medicate in their home, but major employers refuse to hire patients — or as in my case, fire them for their kind of legal use. They kind of have aloha in Hawai’i, but not really. Don’t ask; don’t tell; just live in hell.
We can use deadly opioids, but not the more safe cannabis alternative. Maybe in a few years, politicians tell me. Until then, suffer, remain unemployed, and live or die in pain. Doesn’t really matter to the elected officials and bureaucrats. They get paid either way.
Dr. Dan Zuckerman, medical director of the St. Luke’s Cancer Institute and a practicing medical oncologist, testified to the Idaho legislative committee that three-quarters of oncologists nationwide support availability of medical cannabis for patients, to ease their pain and devastating side effects of their chemotherapy regimens.
Idaho patients can’t get that now, as the law designates all use of cannabis strictly illegal. This means patients are prescribed opioids, which are highly addictive and have serious side effects of their own. Close to 500,000 Americans have died from opioid overdose. None die from cannabis.
Cruelty from Constance Hee Lau
As I’ve pointed out previously, Hawaiian Electric CEO & President Constance Hee Lau and her team fired me for my medical cannabis prescription. Had worked successfully for the company about six months. My manager and colleagues loved and respected me. Adored them. It was a perfect fit and that’s critical in Hawai’i. We were building a better Hawai’i for our ‘ohana.
The company offered me a new position, which changed my status from a contract worker to internal, permanent employee. Although I had reviewed HEI Code of Conduct to be sure my medication was in compliance, double checked with my assigned HR rep, Liz Deer, before moving forward with the pre-employment medical exam.
After discussion my disability, injuries and medication, she assured me I would be fine. She lied. I wasn’t fine. The company confirmed my hire February 20th, and informed me of my official start date on February 25th. Told friends, family and colleagues of my tremendous fortune about being selected. Came early to work Monday. Around 11:00am, HR director Shana Buco fired me in front of everyone.
All my mind heard from her lengthy speech was, “Get out now and don’t come back!!! Can’t work for Hawaiian Electric any more.” To her and the ladies, I was a criminal engaged in illegal behavior. Claimed I presented a “danger to coworkers, the company and general public.” Drug thug!!! Super Predator!!!
Fired by the most prestigious company in Hawai’i for a drug violation. This is a career-ending event. Compassionate use? Not in Hawai’i. Ignorance, fear and cruelty rules this state. Idaho is a long way from most major ports in America. I understand why this conservative state is far behind the world.
Hawai’i is considered to be a liberal, progressive bastion in the middle of the Pacific. Consider this. From Alaska, through the entire nation of Canada, to Washington state, Oregon, California, including Nevada, and now Arizona, and down through the farthest southern tip of Mexico, cannabis is legal — recreationally and medicinally. Mexico is finalizing rules and procedures for April 2021 release.
Hawai’i allows a patient to use deadly, dangerous opioids day or night, but one puff of legal medical cannabis at home can cost your employment. How then is cannabis “legal”?
Rep. Greg Ferch, R-Boise, asked Sgt. Kitzhaber why he wouldn’t just cross the state line into Oregon to get cannabis rather than go through all the hassle and cost of the measures outlined in the bill. Kitzhaber responded that “as a law abiding citizen,” that would risk jail for him, and was something he simply wouldn’t do.
This is the failure of America, Idaho and Hawai’i. Citizens must beg elected officials to fairly, compassionately and expediently represent them. We are law abiding citizens. Sadly, our lawmakers, public officials and privileged corporate executives are cruel. Many of us will die before they do our bidding. Just ask the Native Hawaiians.
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Ko’olau of Kaua’i. I am the Defiant One
“I Believe We Can”