(Editor’s Note: This video and transcript were previously published by PBS NewsHour.)
As medical marijuana (also called cannabis) has become legal in much of the U.S., more older adults are starting to use it to manage pain and opioid addiction. In Arizona, one retired police officer overcame his own personal biases to become a medical cannabis coach. He now teaches some of the state’s older adult population how to use medical marijuana for the first time. Arizona Public Media’s Andrew Brown reports.
Hari Sreenivasan: Medical marijuana use is now legal in 33 states and the District of Columbia and older adults are the country’s fastest growing population of new users. One such person, a former police officer living in Arizona, never thought he’d ever give the drug a try, let alone help others learn how to use it. He’ll tell you himself how that came about in this story from our colleagues at Arizona Public Media.
Bill Meeks: You have to understand this medicine in order to fully make use of it. There are two critical principles. Number one is strain selection, you have to have the right strains. And number two is the dosage. So if you don’t get these two right, you’re either too stoned or you’re not cutting the pain, or whatever the symptoms are. So. So there’s about there’s two puffs. And I’m already feeling the relaxation. So within seconds.
“If people ask me today what is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done — it’s not my police career. It’s this.”
Born in Arizona Safford, moved to Tucson when I just a little guy, CDO high school we moved up where I met Dorothy and went to school. I made all-city as a high school football player, had a pro try out of the Canadian Football League, decided by about age twenty-one I was about as broken as you can imagine. I mean physically I was a wreck.
I started with the sheriff’s department in 1978 work the streets was with the undercover narcotics team, worked my way from the streets all the way up to assistant chief and in 1984 I was in a really bad car wreck on duty, back was hurt really bad but nobody diagnosed it for twenty years. So I went into my doctor I said, ‘Doc, I can’t do this anymore’ and he said, ‘You’re retired.’ And that was the first time I got a prescription. This is what I took every day of my life just for pain. We came up with a nickname for the guy that took that pie. We called him Morphine Bill and Morphine Bill was a jerk.
I’d be in bed twelve to fourteen hours a day and then sit on the couch for the rest of the day eating pills. My boys came down from Washington and they said, ‘Dad this this has got to stop.’ I said, ‘What do I do?’ They held up a newspaper and said ‘Medical marijuana. We dare you to research it’. And I laughed at him. Do you really picture your dad, an ex-cop, a Mormon boy….I don’t drink I don’t smoke… I don’t do anything…You really picture me smoking a doobie?
Woman: You. Have you been here before. Yes. A few times. OK.
Bill Meeks: So I set out a research project to prove him wrong.
I need a quarter of Blueberry Kush and then I need one gram of the Gold Label, but I need heavy heavy indica. I studied and studied and studied and the more I learned, the more I realized the problem was not with cannabis. It was with my personal biases.
Just because our society calls it evil for so many years doesn’t make it evil. The study shows that it’s a very beneficial plant.
Barbara Kaiser: When they started talking to me about using marijuana I said, ‘Absolutely not. Absolutely not.’ I mean, why would I tell my children that that was wrong in the ’70s and now I’m gonna say it’s all right for me now?
Bill Meeks: A lot of people have an idea that, you know, you do medical marijuana, you walk around like Cheech and Chong. If you do recreational marijuana, you will. But medical marijuana is a different thing. A sustainable long-term treatment plan.
Barbara Kaiser: I’ve been on Oxycodone for thirty years, gradually increasing. My primary doctors said we’ve got to get you off of this.
Kathleen Egosque: It’s hard to understand how bad I was before and how depressed.
Michael Egosque: She was just balled up on the sofa, hopelessness, just pure hopelessness because of daunting pain.
Kathleen Egosque: I didn’t know how to go about doing it, so I was really happy to find out there was such a thing as a coach.
Bill Meeks: I think she would have quit all on her own.
Barbara Kaiser: On the sixth day of April, I started my program with Bill and Dorothy. I had withdrawal like you wouldn’t believe. I mean really bad. And I got through it. It took me a year, but on March 31 of 2018, I took my last Oxycodone. I couldn’t have done it without the marijuana and I still forget where I came from. I still have a lot of pain, but nothing like I used to have. Nothing like I used to have. And my children and grandchildren are like, ‘Wow, grandma you look so different than you did last year.’
Kathleen Egosque: I’ve slept better than I have in my life. I just sleep like a baby when I use this.
Bill Meeks: So let’s just keep going the way we’re doing it.
Michael Egosque: Life has really picked up, a lot more conversation between the two of us where before when you’re in pain you’re just in your world. And so I don’t feel as isolated now.
Bill Meeks: If people ask me today what is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done — it’s not my police career. It’s this. So, besides our marriage and our four children, it’s the most rewarding thing we’ve ever done.
Dorothy Meeks: Nobody’s ever shamed us. But sometimes you think, you know, maybe that person isn’t as friendly as they were before, maybe. You know people have their biases and I can’t do anything to control that.
Bill Meeks: I’ve got twenty-eight grams of flour. I got two hundred and eighty milliliters of coconut oil.
Dorothy Meeks: Our bishop knows, our state president knows and they’re very supportive because they see what good we’re doing to educate people and help them to learn how to use this as a medicine.
Bill Meeks: It is a medicine, we respect it. In the world that we’re talking right now, there is an obvious conflict between federal law and state law.
Barbara Kaiser: I don’t understand why it cannot be legalized and why you can’t get some insurance relief. You know if it’s doing me more good than the Oxycodone was doing. I just don’t understand why the government feels so strongly about not making it legal.
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