How Private Tragedy Turned the North Carolina Man right into a Medical Hashish Activist – MJNews Community

By Chris Suttle

Most of us can still remember the clearer moments of our 21st birthday. Those who splashed into a fountain with alcoholic memory loss, like the ice cubes in that final drink, were likely caught on film by their friends. For me, I spent my 21st birthday alone and celebrated my graduation from a hiker to a stick. 2 years ago I was unlucky enough to be on the receiving end of a distracted driver who was terrified the worst. I was hit by a runaway rider at 60 mph next to my bike. I was thrown a good three feet into the air before landing upright with a loud “crack” in my ears. I turned my head just in time to see their taillights cross the small bridge by the Channel Bass Restaurant on Hatteras Island, North Carolina.

I yelled at the few passing cars that were still on the road after 9 p.m. in a city with only 1200 inhabitants. I think it was something like, “I’ve been hit! Why don’t you stop ?! “I managed to focus my now purple vision on the stop sign in front of the famous Hatterasman Drive In and started repeating” left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot “until I reached the hood of a strange car. I screamed as loud as I could “Please call my dad” before I passed out.

I woke to a flood of flashing lights and familiar faces covered flat on my back in woolen blankets. A team of volunteer firefighters lifted me just enough to slide a wooden bodyboard under me until the rescue workers arrived with a stretcher. I remember hearing the voice of our local Methodist minister praying for me to have a safe and quick passage to the closet hospital. In retrospect, it was quite an important prayer at that moment as the closest real medical facility in Chesapeake, VA was more than two and a half hours away.

The last thing I remember clearly was the excruciating pain of being strapped to a stretcher in an ambulance as it drove as fast as possible over the numerous railroad tracks between Hatteras Village and Chesapeake General. If you’re wondering, that number was four in 1998, two of which are less than a few feet apart. I managed to remain conscious for 1½ of them.

The total damage? Three hair fractures in my spine that are inoperable due to my age and the continued formation of my growth plates, severed hip muscle on the right side, massive bruises on the abdominal wall leading to numerous tears and a ringing in my head that stops the skin on same day my heart does it.

My treatment options were limited due to the adolescent age of my skeletal structure and I was discharged after two weeks with a list of medications and plenty of idle time in my future. One of the main drugs is our old friend OxyContin. I took one pill, a single pill and 6 hours later threw the rest away. It wasn’t due to any lack of potency, but that potency led me to realize that if I ever took a second pill, the false euphoria I was feeling would be my hunt for the dragon for the rest of my adult life.

So now i do what? Stay in constant pain for the rest of my recovery along with the lifelong pain that massive trauma could possibly leave or remove from reality with more pills until, with luck, my body succumbs to kidney failure, if I’m lucky, 35. Not great Decisions, so I went with Plan B: weeds.

Learning about the medicinal properties of cannabis before the age of 21 must remain one of those rum-induced campfire stories I tell my closest compatriots. At the same time, I enrolled for an associate degree at Chowan University in 1996. The knowledge gained enabled me to manage my pain during the most important times of my recovery, which enabled my body to stay still and do what it needed to do best at that point, which was to rest.

There was a lot of flowers on the wall moments to count, the kind a toy in your mind like a cat would be a feather toy. I pulled myself through a bit and mostly recovered from most of my injuries except for a small hair break at the base of my spine.

I fast-forward for you and say the shelf life of this fracture should have been “expired” in 2004 because my back broke and I took most of the nerves near the base of the spine with me. A total of 3 discs had to be removed and a so-called wood displacement operation had to be performed so that I could regain a feeling in about 60% of my body.

What’s the point of this lengthy origin story and what does it have to do with medical cannabis? Cannabis is the only thing I’ve used to manage pain throughout my recovery, and to this day it’s my preferred method of treating degenerative osteoarthritis.

Current laws in NC define me as a criminal who chose to treat my chronic pain with cannabis. And while outlaw life is fun when you’re 26, not so much when you’re 44. There have been times when I had to resort to prescription pain management options without OxyContin due to a lack of care or the inability to grow my own.

This is why the fight to legalize cannabis is so important to me. That’s why I work 18-hour shifts six days a week. When I’m not with NCGA, I deliver for postmates or do my stupid human trick of breathing fire in front of strangers for money. All of my work as a citizen advocate for medical and recreational cannabis legalization in NC is pro bono. So my car is my office, and I’m calling to schedule appointments with senators and representatives in between postmates deliveries and to spend every Tuesday and Thursday in the Legislative Office halls for the rest of my foreseeable future. Here is the general tone of this brick and mortar building that I know is a second home lovingly.

A recent poll published by Elon University shows that 68% of NCs are in favor of cannabis legalization. Despite this and numerous other surveys, medical research, and scientific data demonstrating the numerous benefits to the people and economy of NC, the NCGA continues to be a challenging place to find allies, especially in the House of Representatives.

There is hope, regardless of the old reefer madness-inspired mentality that still exists within the walls of the NCGA. With each new citizen attorney signing up for the free training at, the winds of change pick up and speed past Gail Force and turn into a full blown hurricane. Every day another siding is blown up from the side of the NCGA building as NC citizen advocates flood the corridors of legislative offices, equipped with the latest scientific and medical research to educate and educate the hearts and minds of the NC legislature hopefully to change.

NC is a “Dillon’s Rule” state. The definition of “Dillon’s Rule” is longer and more boring than I would wish the reader to be in order to keep it short and simple. No citizen can petition or initiate a bill to the NCGA; only the elected individuals that make up the NCGA can do so.

This is where the citizen advocacy program comes in. Thanks to the care of a seasoned retired lobbyist and the excellent support from the other pro bono volunteers at NC NORML, they have created a free training program to become an effective cannabis legalization advocate available to all North Carolinians. Orientation dates for the program can be found on the website or by following @NC_NORML on Twitter.

Is it effective? Let’s take a look at one of the most historic days in NCGA history, held on April 7th of this year. 7 different bills related to medical cannabis and even full legalization for NC have been submitted. A bill legalizing medical cannabis has appeared in some form or fashion in the past five years, but never seven in the same day. Two more were introduced on April 12, bringing the total to 9 bills for the 2021 legislature

People have spoken before, but now their voice is reinforced by the recent increase in civic representation in our state. There’s a hurricane coming in NC and his gaze is fixed on the NCGA. It is time to help or move to a higher level because the floods will continue to rise and we will never stop until the North Carolinians can pursue the same civil liberties as other citizens of this great nation in relation to cannabis use. Hold on to NC, change is coming and it has a name, SB Bill 711, The NC Compassionate Care Act.

Every journey begins with a meaningful first step, or in this case the first eddies of a cold front that is of concern to meteorologists. Keep an eye on that front, and before 2021 is over, the calm in the air after a hurricane familiar to all coastal residents in NC could become even quieter for the many people being forced to use legal medical cannabis in the Suffer in the dark. 2021 may seem ambitious, but so does my desire to go again in the eyes of my doctor.

Not only did I go for a walk again, but I continued my passion for stage combat and even appeared twice as Blackbeard on an internationally known comedy show about fighting pirate swords in my hometown. I was on an episode of Tarheel Travelers on WRAL as Blackbeard at the Ocracoke Pirate Jamboree Festival and it’s still on their website at if any of you readers need a picture.

Will medical legalization for NC happen in 2021? Nothing says it can’t, but a more realistic date is 2023. Regardless of when it happens, the continued work of citizen advocates will be vital to the future of cannabis in NC.

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