Lonnie Kessler and Kimberly Ruiz are a couple who live in Moberly, Missouri. Lonnie has intractable epilepsy and Kimberly is a disabled vet, and they both advocate for the legalization of medical marijuana in the state.
They sat down at the Little Dixie Regional Library in Moberly and spoke about what motivates them to be advocates.
Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org.
Lonnie Kessler: I think some of the biggest barriers that that we've dealt with is public perception about people who need access to marijuana as medicine.
There are a lot of stereotypes, and people who are lacking that education about cannabis as medicine. That's a big barrier - just getting some people to open up and talk about it is quite the challenge.
I had a family member at Christmas who I tried to speak to about it and it didn't go so well. I was actually told that I'm selfish because I want to have access to all the options in treating my illnesses and that if that's the case I should move out of state.
Since I'm not able to try cannabis as medicine in the state of Missouri, Kimberly and I did pack up and make a few trips to Colorado to see how this can help me, not only with epilepsy, but many of the symptoms of my debilitating illness - such as nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite, difficulty sleeping, irritability and just many of the things that we neglect to talk when we talk about severe illnesses, but these little things also affect our quality of life on a daily basis, as well.
Kimberly Ruiz: Yeah. We did find that it helped my back pain and it helped you to have less anxiety - me as well. I thought that the Colorado troops were quite productive.
Lonnie: Right. And there's no guarantee that cannabis will take care of all of these issues, but it will help - it has helped.
As silly as it may sound again, the food is a big deal to me. Being able to eat and try to keep the weight on. Another thing...
Kimberly: Since we touched on the Colorado visits, I'd like to talk about how that has changed our conversations with your epileptologists and your surgeon.
Lonnie: Absolutely. My doctors believe that I know my body best, and they wish I had every available option in my treatment to make that possible. They do show a lot of interest and would like to be more involved with their patients, but unfortunately our current laws do not allow that because they feel so restricted about being able to talk with their patients since this is not legal in the state of Missouri.
They're basically saying, "Our hands are tied, and this is where you're at. You can either have the epilepsy surgery here, you can obtain cannabis illegally - face going to jail or buying something that you don't know what it is, you can move out of state or you can basically do nothing."
And none of those options are acceptable to me, so I've decided to advocate on behalf of patients who are in need of medical cannabis.
We just want a better quality of life, and we are wanting and sometimes willing to do whatever it takes to have that quality of life. We should recognize this as medication and allow healing to come into our state.