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"Grandma Marijuana" Fights On

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Mar. 22, 00
Michigan Live
By Kathy Roberts, Times Writer
Former Beaverton resident continues 21-year battle to make medicinal pot legal...
Mae Nutt, 78, is an expert at baking marijuana brownies. She also has a terrific recipe for marijuana tea. She has sauteed untold pounds of marijuana in butter (not margarine, she insists) to concoct suppositories. About the only thing Nutt doesn't know about the illegal drug is what a marijuana high feels like. She doesn't smoke it. Nutt, who moved to Midland from Beaverton in July, is a 21-year advocate for the legalization of marijuana as medicine. She's been an opponent of recreational use of marijuana even longer.
From April 6-8, Nutt will be one of 26 speakers at the First National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics in Iowa City, Iowa. The conference is sponsored by the College of Nursing and the College of Medicine at the University of Iowa. "This is going to be a world program and, of course, they're hoping we can get somebody to listen," Nutt said.
Al Byrne, co-founder of Patients Out Of Time, said his organization is holding the conference to educate medical professionals about the positive effects of marijuana. His wife, Mary Lynn Mathre, is an addictions consultant for the University of Virginia Health Systems. Byrne said he hopes that through education, voters will learn how marijuana can help and pressure politicians into changing laws.
Currently, seven states and the District of Columbia allow marijuana to be used as a prescription medicine. During the April conference, doctors, nurses and attorneys from all over the world will explain the health care applications of marijuana and U.S. laws governing its use.
On April 7, Nutt will talk about her personal experience with marijuana and cancer. Her son, Keith, was diagnosed with testicular cancer in April 1978. The cancer had spread throughout his abdomen and lungs. He started chemotherapy in Columbus, Ohio the following February. A short time later, though, the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy forced Keith to move back home to Beaverton from his college apartment. After chemotherapy, he'd be so ill he stuffed a towel under his bedroom door to seal out the smell of food. Nutt soon read an article about marijuana helping chemotherapy patients re-gain their appetites. It also alleviated the pain from cancer. Keith admitted to his mom he knew firsthand that marijuana could help. She asked Keith why he never told her. You made it abundantly clear many years ago that marijuana was not acceptable in this house,'" Nutt remembers Keith saying. "I told him, "Well, this is different.'" Within days, Nutt contacted a minister who worked with troubled youth in another community. The minister found someone to get marijuana for Keith. Nutt was so far removed from the world of buying drugs that she paid for the first delivery with a check.
Marijuana made the difference. Keith could eat dinner with his family. He could sit in the living room. He could play his guitar. When Keith died in October 1979, Nutt's battle for medicinal marijuana was just beginning. Her efforts to legalize marijuana as medicine earned her the nickname "Grandma Marijuana." Because of the number of gifts of marijuana that appeared on the doorstep and in the mailbox, her Beaverton home became known as the "Green Cross." She appeared on national television twice, pushing her cause. Nutt testified in federal court in Washington, D.C., in 1988. Her testimony came at the start of a weeklong hearing on a suit asking the Drug Enforcement Administration to change the classification of marijuana to allow cancer, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis patients to use it.
As a result, doctors in 33 states were allowed to prescribe marijuana, but only under rules that were so cumbersome only a few bothered. Many states later rescinded the laws. Nutt said Michigan doctors also told her they didn't pursue the license to prescribe marijuana because the paperwork burned up so much time. Patients complain that the federal law only allows them to smoke joints under the supervision of a doctor. That isn't always practical. The relief lasts only a short time, so a patient needs to smoke a few puffs several times a day. The paperwork to get approval for the prescription is long, detailed and confusing. Even patients who opt to buy marijuana illegally run into problems. Some don't smoke. Toddlers with cancer can't be taught to smoke. Nutt, who is in touch with cancer patients, health care professionals and lawyers all over the country, has a solution for every problem. She refers patients to an expert on the federal paperwork. She finds smokers to help non-smokers learn the skill. She passes on recipes for marijuana brownies, tea and suppositories. She counsels everyone who seeks the drug illegally to be careful.
In 1990, those kinds of efforts earned Mae Nutt and her husband, Arnold, the Robert Randall Award for Citizens Action from the Drug Policy Foundation, which is dedicated to liberalizing U.S. drug policies. Heart disease and stroke took Arnold Nutt's life in August. Re-kindling some of the relationships that Nutt and her husband developed over the last 21 years is one reason she is looking forward to the conference in Iowa. Kevin Zeese, president of Common Sense Drug Policy and the attorney who accompanied Nutt to Washington, D.C., is also one of the speakers. Robert Randall, a glaucoma patient who uses marijuana legally and who has been friends with the Nutts for years, also is on the roster. Nutt hopes to pay the conference expenses of a Wisconsin woman who has a disease that causes her joints to loosen and muscles to atrophy. The only thing that gives her relief is marijuana. The woman hasn't been able to complete the paperwork to get federal permission for the drug.
On Wednesday, Nutt got word that police were raiding her friends' home in connection with her marijuana use. That is the sort of incident she hopes no one else ever has to face. If marijuana provides relief from intense pain, it should be a legal, prescription medicine, Nutt believes. The upcoming conference could convince some politicians of that, Nutt said.

Copyright 2000 Michigan Live Inc.