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Navy Veteran, 74, uses Medical Marijuana to Relieve Pain


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KALAMAZOO - The atomic explosions off remote islands in the South Pacific seemed to turn night into day. They also turned Martin Chilcutt into a marijuana user.
Chilcutt said the drug has helped him to ease the pain he says dates back to his exposure to radiation during a 1956 U.S. government project testing nuclear and thermonuclear weapons.

A state ballot proposal could allow voters in November to decide whether Chilcutt's measures to self-medicate should be legal in Michigan. The 74-year-old former intelligence officer with the U.S. Naval Air Force has used other medications to help him with his physical and psychological problems, but marijuana helps "so much better," he said. "Sometimes I just want to die," Chilcutt said. "You can only take intense pain for so long before you'll do anything to escape it."

He never intended to put his health at risk. While part of the testing project, Chilcutt remembers, he donned large goggles and turned his back to protect his eyes as the bombs exploded in the early-morning darkness. There was no protection, though, from the heavy doses of radiation that spewed from the explosions and reached Chilcutt.

He has battled skin cancer three times, including basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of cancer, with about a million new cases reported in the United States each year. He has been in remission for the past 10 years.

Making life easier
Chilcutt's four years in the military - he served from the middle to late 1950s - also took a psychological toll, he said. For 30 years, he said, he has suffered chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, including bouts of anxiety, depression and anger, nightmares, arthritis and debilitating migraine headaches. Marijuana helps them all, he said.

Although there are different ways to use the drug, such as ingesting or inhaling it, there is no difference in the drug's effect based on consumption, according to the Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care, which is spearheading the state marijuana initiative. "It just makes life so much easier," he said. "It allows you to be comfortable." Chilcutt, a retired psychotherapist, said he first learned of marijuana's medical benefits in the late 1970s while counseling Vietnam War veterans in California. They told him the drug could help allay his pain, he said. He said he takes eight other medications for ailments the marijuana doesn't help, including a thyroid condition.

Advocates for the medical use of marijuana say it's also effective in easing symptoms from other serious illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis. Critics cite a U.S. Food and Drug Administration report in 2006 that said "no sound scientific studies" support the medical use of the drug.

If the marijuana-use proposal is approved by state voters, Michigan would become the 15th state - and the first in the Midwest - with a law that permits marijuana use for seriously ill people. Michigan law currently prohibits marijuana use for any reason. It's estimated between 40,000 and 50,000 people - about one-half of 1 percent of Michigan residents - would be eligible to use marijuana for medical purposes. In states where the law is now in place, it's estimated the same percentage of residents would qualify to use the drug, according to the Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care.

Under federal law, marijuana use is illegal in all states. That means that even if Michigan voters approve the initiative, users under the law could still be prosecuted. But such prosecution under federal law has been virtually nonexistent, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, a national group that provided nearly all of the $1.1 million used to organize the Michigan campaign to get the proposal approved.

Taking risks
Chilcutt moved to Kalamazoo from Colorado four years ago. He serves as executive director of Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access, a Kalamazoo-based group he founded in 2007. It advocates for safe and legal access to marijuana for appropriate therapeutic uses and encourages research on the drug as an alternative treatment. "This is my life now - to help patients," he said. His support of marijuana use for medical purposes has prompted him to take chances to help those with serious medical issues get access to the drug.

In Colorado, where he lived for 15 years, Chilcutt joined the movement to legalize marijuana for medical use. While campaigning for the initiative, which became law in 2000, a marijuana grower contacted him and asked if he could donate marijuana to Chilcutt to distribute to those in need. Chilcutt, who then was leading group-therapy sessions for those close to death, including people with advanced cancers and AIDS, agreed.

"I took a lot of risks in the past," he said. "But I believed so much in how marijuana could help sick people. I didn't care how it helped the person, just as long as it did."

Source: Mlive.com
Copyright: 2008 Michigan Live LLC
Contact: About Us - MLive.com
Website: MLive.com: Everything Michigan
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While being with my father in his last 7 years of his agonizing cancer, who was diagnosed from being exposed to long term radiation exposure: "Operations Crossroads" held in the 40's on the Bikini Islands, was something that was taken for granted as 42,000 men and women were subjected to the effects of radiation exposure while testing the effects on many other " test subjects: in that region;
We had talked many times of how Marijauna might ease his discomfort of the treatments, ironically he was treated with Radiation, and Chemotherapy: His Oncologist also reccomended Marijuana, but Dad did not smoke: so he tried Marinol: Nope, Marinol was bogus Dad would say: Some brownies were made for him, and he tried them and found that 1) since he liked chocolate, that might be better for his needs, it happend that having the brownies made his appetite increase and could help hin swallow his food better, his discomfort of pain was at a low level, and could cope mentally and physically better than before, he could rest better, his sleeping times were longer, his violent sweating, and vomiting was greatly reduced, he understood that Marijauna was not a " CURE" for his cancer, but it was the best "prescription" he would say that helped him in best managing his discomfort, he understood that it came from a plant, not a pill factory.
A big blow came to him after his 1st visit to the Oregon V.A. when they flatly denied he was ever in the "Operation Crossroads" it was not that the man at the V.A. there did not believe him, it was that the U.S Navy, had somehow misplaced his 5 year naval records. After 3 more visits and taking to them the Maps of all drone ships, subs, animals, etc..., pictures of fish glowing in the dark underwater from eating radioactive algae, shells from Bikini, and the other Islands, even Bikini Beer Tickets issued to the men & women after they had removed the Marshalese people from their respective islands, the one man who was still trying to help Dad get benefits to help with the other medications came thru, he had side skirted somehow the internal V.A. stuff and was later reprimanded doing so by his higher ups.
Why, does anyone have to suffer, being a veteran, or other, to be able to have safe access to Medical Marijuana.
It was an honor to be able to give the Euology for him written by his 3 close friends who served with him in those years on the USS Enoree.
Safe access to Medical Marijuana should & must be made available in every state, it is our right, and our privledge to have this.
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