Allison Folsom brought her family all the way from Bristol to tote her “Moms for Medical Marijuana" sign Saturday.
The mother of two, infants Damon and Addie, said she doesn’t smoke marijuana for fear of losing her job, but constantly suffers through chronic migraines, something she said would be completely relieved if she were able to smoke marijuana to fight the symptoms.
“I think it shouldn’t even be a question,” Folsom said. “What’s out there is absolute misinformation. I wish people would look at the facts.”
That doesn’t mean Folsom takes over-the-counter pills for her headaches either. She, and many of those in attendance for Saturday’s Smokey Mountain Medical Marijuana Rights Rally, point to the dangers of legal drugs, and can’t for the life of them figure out why such drugs are legal and marijuana is not.
About 200 people showed up at the location of the Johnson City Farmer’s Market, 500 S. Roan St., with signs and clothing to give their support to medical marijuana rights, and made their way down the path next to West State of Franklin Road, getting honks of support all along the way.
Joseph Rasch, an organizer of the event, said the goal was to get as many people as they could out to show the public that these are everyday people, some with medical conditions, who could benefit from the legalization of marijuana, and seeing that much support for it could change the conversation. Rasch said he hoped those attending would link up and talk to each other and share stories of how marijuana has been helpful in their lives.
Ryan Rush, one of the event’s organizers, said there isn’t a single documented case in history of someone dying from an overdose of marijuana, but points to cigarettes, alcohol, prescription drugs, and even sugar as being mass killers in the country.
When asked why the government allows such a thing to happen, Rush said money is the root cause.
“The government does a lot of left-hand, right-hand stuff, with both Republicans and Democrats, where both take so much money from the pharmaceutical lobbies,” he said.
Rush lost his best friend to complications from chemotherapy in 2011, which would have been much different had he been able to use marijuana for his symptoms. He said most of the people present were there because legalization of medical marijuana would cure, heal or treat symptoms that negatively affect their lives, including those who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, cancer, Crohn’s disease, anxiety, depression and many more.
Seth Green, who organized the entire event and is a big proponent of the Koozer-Kuhn Medical Cannabis Act, which Green learned has moved to the state Senate and would ultimately allow legal protections across Tennessee for qualified patients authorized by their physicians to engage in cannabis therapy for a variety of ailments.
Green, who was born with cerebral palsy and also suffers from multiple sclerosis and frequent seizures, says the act has a chance to gain traction with the disbursement of information to the public and by pressuring lawmakers. Lawmakers locally have not been sympathetic to the cries of those fighting for medical marijuana. Green said U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, has said he is not willing to legalize marijuana and needs to conduct more research into it.
State Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, one rally participant said, was considering support of such legalization at least on the medical side of things, but had said nothing concrete on the matter either way.
Rallyers handed out snippets of paper with Crowe and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s contact information, encouraging those in attendance to call, email and put pressure on them to support marijuana rights.
“Make my medicine legal,” “Nature is not a crime,” “Free the cure,” “Plants over pills,” and many other signs were displayed by members of the crowd, all of whom wanted medical marijuana rights to be expanded.
Michelle Reed, of Johnson City, said she has seven prescriptions for 11 diagnoses, all which could be treated by marijuana. Reed said she has to carry around a big bag of pills with her wherever she goes, and has even failed a drug test because of marijuana, which landed her in jail for 30 days due to a violation of her probation.
She and Joe Hendren, of Limestone, said it’s completely unfair that people could lose a job for testing positive for marijuana, saying they function perfectly well when they’ve occasionally used the natural substance.
Hendren sees the political climate in East Tennessee as one of the elements upon which to place the blame.
“It’s the conservative values here,” Hendren said. “Politicians don’t want their Sunday school constituents looking down on (their support for marijuana.)”