ORANGEBURG — Eric and Michelle Crawford have been pestering the politicians in Frankfort for three years now in their efforts to have medical marijuana legalized.
They have traveled across the state to speak at town hall meetings on the subject; they attended the Fancy Farm (political) Picnic in August; and they try to get to Frankfort when the General Assembly is in session at least once a week, if Eric’s health permits.
The expenses, as Michelle pointed out Tuesday during an interview at their Mason County home, are all paid for with Eric’s money.
In 2014, the couple aligned themselves with Kentuckians for Medicinal Marijuana to have medical marijuana legalized in Kentucky. Their efforts to date have resulted in the Cannabis Compassion Bill, being sent to the Licensing and Occupations committee. In the 2016 General Assembly session, Senate Bill 263 was introduced on the last day of the session, with no action taken.
"It’s not about Eric anymore, there’s so many people that can benefit," said Michelle. "The bill allows people to access marijuana, to grow it with a limit on the number of plants and to provide licenses to cultivate it and develop jobs."
Eric is a quadriplegic — his spine was injured in a 1994 car accident when he was 22 years old. He and Michelle met when he was in Cardinal Hill for rehabilitation. Since then, they have been inseparable, with Michelle devoting her life to Eric as his mate, caregiver and champion of his needs.
The couple kept their lives as private as possible, until September 2013, when a set of extenuating circumstances put their lives into the court system. It was then they decided to go public and fight for Eric’s right to have relief from his health problems through medical marijuana.
"We are fighting for whole plant medical cannabis," Michelle said Tuesday, stressing the fact they are not trying to have recreational marijuana legalized.
In January 2014, Eric was taking 16 prescriptions for a wide variety of ailments: pain, muscle spasms, anxiety, optical uveitis, antibiotics to stave off urinary tract infections, auto-immune disorder, acid reflux and eye drops for glaucoma, just to name a few.
Since they started their campaign, they have educated themselves on the benefits of medical cannabis. Eric can tell you people are born with what are called CBD1 (nervous system) and CBD2 (organs) receptors, which are stimulated by the right type of cannabis. According to Eric, there are two strains of medical marijuana, Indica and Sativa, one helps a person sleep, the other helps them stay awake.
"People who need cannabis know which strain they need. Hemp and marijuana are both cannabis, one has THC and one doesn’t," Eric said.
Legal CBD hemp oils, several of which are produced in Kentucky, are examples of products that can be used to offset the pain and spasms Eric has. The couple didn’t know that before, but now have supplies at home; one oil is made specifically for the popular electronic cigarettes.
"Your brain already has CBD1 and CBD2 receptors, CBDs (hemp oils) affect the receptors," Eric said.
He said the affect from these products isn’t a "high" that most people associate with marijuana.
It should be noted Eric is now off most of his medications, and he dislikes taking prescribed pain killers.
The couple is frustrated that action hasn’t been taken in Frankfort to legalize medical marijuana. They feel the citizens of Mason County have been betrayed by legislators because there has been no acknowledgement in Frankfort of Mason County Resolution 14-2, approved in January 2014 by the fiscal court, supporting then Senate Bill 43 to legalize medical marijuana. That same bill is now SB 263, introduced this session and co-sponsored by State Senator Steve West, who represents Mason County.
The couple also says they are afraid of law enforcement.
"I’m scared of the law," Eric said. The couple said they are constantly considering the idea of moving out-of-state so Eric can have medical marijuana, but they don’t want to leaver their home, family and friends.
"I’m mad as hell … I’ve heard so many times "we’re going to do something" (from legislators). You walk out of the office, and you never hear from them again," Eric said.
The couple expressed frustration with State Senator John Schickel (R-Boone County), because he is a co-chair of the Licensing and Occupations interim committee and sits on the Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations session committee.
"This is the third year the bill has been sent to Sen. Schickel’s office, and it hasn’t been heard," Eric said. "It dies every year in the L&O."
Schickel was contacted for this story and immediately returned a call placed to his senate office Wednesday.
Schickel said he had two marijuana bills presented to his committee this year, one for recreational and one for medical marijuana. He said the medical marijuana bill came to his office too late in the session to have it put before the L&O committee.
"I told the sponsor we couldn’t have a hearing that late. I’ve always been open to medical marijuana," he said.
He noted he was the first representative to sponsor the hemp bill before its passage.
He also said he has committed to holding an interim hearing on the medical marijuana issue in either July or August. He said the purpose is to hear more of the science behind marijuana.
"With a bill that important and that big, we have to proceed thoughtfully and carefully. I want to hear from both sides of the issue," Schickel said.
He said in the past, the votes haven’t been there (at committee level) to pass the bill forward to the full Senate, noting "some people don’t think it’s a good thing," and the American Medical Association doesn’t think the science (on the matter) is there.
"I’m open to it. I’m not against it. I’ve given it a commitment…I will hold a hearing. It’s important. If the votes are there, we’ll pass it," he said, adding he will encourage the sponsors to pre-file the bill for next year’s General Assembly.
Calls to State Senator Steve West, the co-sponsor of SB 263, were not returned to The Ledger Independent.
The Crawfords say there is enough documented science to support legalizing medical marijuana.
"It’s not because High Times or pot smokers say it," Michelle said.
"Sick people should have a choice, I don’t want to go blind. There’s no such thing as a safe drug, but there is a safer choice," Eric said.