I’m A Paramedic, Here’s Why I Support Medical Cannabis

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I walked slowly up the three creaky wooden steps through the worn red front door of an old yellow house. I had done this many times before. The smell of death and disease hung heavy in the air and was intertwined with the foulness of old urine and loaded diapers.

My partner and I, carefully lifted and maneuvered the cot up the steps between us and into the cramped low-lit living room. Coincidentally, there wasn’t much living going on in here.

This was the weekly routine for the two of us, and who we will call Mrs. Parks. She was 63 and had been receiving regular radiation treatments. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer that had spread to various places and was always in a lot of pain.

Each time she had to be rolled to be changed or moved to the cot, she screamed in pain. She had been bed bound for so long that she began developing bed sores on her tail bone area, which also causes a great deal of pain. The doses of IV morphine were sky high. Each time she had one, it would knock her out for a couple of hours only to awaken again in severe pain.

Her family was doing all that they could to manage her needs. Trying to keep up with the schedule of dressing changes for the bed sores was a task. Once they become infected, they begin to smell terrible and ooze with plasma as your body tries to heal itself. For many families, care at this level is a full-time job and hearing their mother and grandmother’s cries of agony will stay with them forever.

Over a 15-year career as a paramedic, I have been involved with families like Mrs. Parks.

Too many to count. Many years of my career were spent transporting hospice patients back and forth from homes and care facilities. So many of them in severe pain and being shuffled into a mental oblivion by insanely high doses of opiate pain-killers. Spending their last days in a zombified stupor.

According to this report, the UN recognizes that Afghanistan is the place where 90% of the world’s legal and illegal supply of opium comes from. Yes, you read that correctly. The place that has been under U.S. military control for well over 10 years, is still the leader in growing the plant that makes narcotic pain-killers. Knowing this, makes me wonder why politicians are only now starting to complain about opiate addiction issues.

They could have done something when they had the chance.

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It’s been a long hard road for some, but for residents in the state of Florida, access to medical cannabis is about to be a welcomed part of everyday life. Florida voters overwhelmingly approved, 71% to be exact, a bill that would expand the state’s ability to offer medical cannabis to its residents. As of now, there are three companies that have been approved to begin cannabis operations.

There has been fierce debate on the issue of medical cannabis and the resident’s right to have access to alternative medical treatments. With the opioid epidemic growing faster than ever, the public demanding more natural and viable long-term options. They are demanding the right to decide for themselves.

I stand with these majority voters because I have seen first hand the issues with opiates.

I have also seen first-hand, the amazing effects of cannabis when my best friend’s father was suffering from esophageal cancer. This was a man that I had known for many years and watched his slow decline. I was there when his morphine doses were enough to kill an elephant. I was also there the first time he was able to smoke vaporized cannabis after receiving a tracheostomy. The relief had been instant, and he was able to forget about his severe and throbbing pain for a while. At this point, his tumor had swollen to the size of a softball on his left side of his neck, and very visible. At that moment, I knew that cannabis could be a true asset in pain therapy for patients of severe pain. This began my own journey, researching this field.

That was several years ago, and there has been a lot more research done in various fields for the use cases of cannabis in medical therapies.

Pharmaceutical companies are reeling at the thoughts of lost profits. Despite the mounds of money being donated by those companies to political efforts, there are many states changing their laws on access to cannabis for medical and recreation. Those states are also reaping the tax benefits and can drastically improve their economies with the money that cannabis brings in.

With all of this said, I hope we can see a better change for the future. Better options for suffering patients and a more positive approach to the education of our society.

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The War on Drugs has failed, but let’s not continue to allow it to fail. Research this topic and call your local politicians. Let your voice heard for others who can’t speak for themselves.

Let’s have some compassion dammit.

-Paul Cercy

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