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A Missoula woman launches a hunger strike for medicinal cannabis



Yes I cannabis! How tragic that as the 21st century’s war against prohibition rages on, the foot soldiers on the front lines are among society’s most debilitated souls. We are, of course, talking about the battle to allow doctors to legally prescribe cannabis to their patients as a legitimate treatment option, especially when all other avenues for relief have failed.

Now, before you get yourself all knotted up in a self-righteous huff and pound out irate letters about how legalizing medical cannabis is the foot-in-the-door for full-scale marijuana legalization, ask yourself how many TV commercials you’ve seen lately for prescription pharmaceuticals that tell you to “ask your doctor if [insert drug here] is right for you…” So we’re not talking about your average Missoulian who wants to pull a few bong hits before giggling his way through the latest episode of “The Simpsons.” We’re talking about real patients with serious symptoms, for many of whom there literally are no other treatment options.

Such is the case here in Missoula, where one woman has decided to literally put her life on the line to demonstrate how crucial medical marijuana is for her health and well-being—and she’s willing to starve herself to prove it.

Robin Prosser is a 45-year-old mother in Missoula who has suffered for years from a condition that doesn’t even have a name. In Chicago, a team of doctors told her that her illness is probably one of 150 different immunosuppressive illnesses, similar to Lupus. Prosser can’t go out in the sun anymore and suffers from other symptoms similar to multiple sclerosis with progressive neurological deterioration. “We just treat the symptoms as we can, but most of the time I know now that there’s nothing they can do,” she says. Her doctors have tried dozens of medications, therapies and treatments, but as Prosser’s body grows increasingly sensitive to chemical interference, they have found no medication that alleviates her symptoms. None, that is, except cannabis. Prosser, like tens of thousands of other patients across the country, has discovered that smoking cannabis relieves her pain, nausea, stops the spasms in her muscles, her bronchi, her heart and intestines, and gives her an appetite.

But as of April 20, Prosser has given up all food and will continue her hunger strike until the government recognizes her need to grow her own cannabis. She says she’s never had a run-in with the law and doesn’t want to buy or grow marijuana illegally for fear of going to jail and losing her daughter. For a time, she considered moving to another country that has more progressive cannabis laws, but decided against it. (Last year Canada legalized the use of cannabis as medicine and is now funding research on its healthful effects. Likewise, Great Britain is also considering legalizing medical marijuana use.)

“This is 2002. I am not a criminal,” she says. “I won’t be forced to leave my homeland to find more hospitable countries where I would be allowed to have what I need.”

Prosser’s progress is being monitored by several physicians, including Dr. Ethan Russo, one of the nation’s foremost experts on the therapeutic uses of cannabis. Prosser says she’s feeling pretty energized and hasn’t felt lightheaded or dizzy since starting her hunger strike. As of press time, she had lost 11 lbs. How long will her hunger strike last? “For as long as it takes,” she says.

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