Michelle Rainey: In the Fight for Her Life

Michelle RaineyMichelle RaineyThe Denmother to Canada?s activist community fights both Crohn?s Disease and extradition to the USA. She writes about her battle with illness, her spiritual bond with Marc Emery, her Federal Medical Marijuana License, the Tokers Bowl and the BC Marijuana Party.
Validation and Vindication

I never thought a nickname like ?pooper? that my father gave me as a toddler would literally come true. Nor would I have ever imagined that I?d be fighting for my life and my right to use cannabis for an incurable sickness called Crohn?s Disease.

On June 14, 1971 my mother gave birth to me in New Westminster, British Columbia. Unfortunately, my father?s interests were Crown Royal and Smirnoff, so my mother decided to leave him by the time I turned six. I saw him regularly but he didn?t live long enough to see his ?pooper? get Crohn?s Disease; he died when I was only 12. But Emilie was the best mother and father a girl could ever have.

During my first few years of high school I started having painful attacks in my stomach and intestinal area, inducing nausea, sweating, chronic diarrhea, and cramping. I was a regular girl with tons of ambition but my insides were not cooperating, so I finally went to my family doctor. ?Nerves, maybe an ulcer,? he said. Then the testing began. Being 16, having barium enemas and being bombarded with tests was humiliating and interfering with my future plans. It took two years to figure out that I had Crohn?s Disease. In 1989 there was no known cause or cure, and there?s still none now.

My gastroenterologist handed me a prescription for an anti-inflammatory. It cost $80 for two weeks, which sucked up my entire part-time paycheck for a week of work! Within a few months of diagnosis, the progression of the disease was so out of control I was in surgery having 12 inches of my small intestine removed. The side effects from the numerous prescription drugs I was given were intolerable. Functioning normally was at times impossible. I was 40 pounds overweight due to steroids, in constant pain, and nothing was working.

After graduating high school I got into the banking industry. During that ten-year career I had another surgery in 1996, removing 14 more inches of my small intestine and almost killing me due to complications. It was at that moment I decided to stop all medication and never have surgery again. I took control of my own body!

Afghani BullriderAfghani BullriderThe Sign

A friend from childhood said to me one day ?why don?t you try using marijuana for your disease?? They had done a college paper proving the medicinal effects of cannabis, and thought it would help me. It sure did. After my second (and final) surgery in 1996 I discontinued all prescription drugs and only used cannabis. The effects were amazing; pain and nausea were alleviated.

But I was ?hiding in the closet? so no one knew I used marijuana. I struggled everyday while working, not able to consume a few healing puffs of a joint. While my coworkers could smoke tobacco during their breaks, or even take prescription meds, I was unable to alleviate my own suffering.

One afternoon in September 1998, I was working my usual shift at the Royal Bank and in walked Marc Emery. My immediate reaction was to scream out ?Oh my god, The Prince of Pot!? but instead looked around to see who was in the branch and noticed we were alone. My heart was beating as if I?d run a marathon, the palms of my hands were soaking wet. I needed to tell him he was a hero.

I said ?Can I help you?? and we started to proceed with his banking transactions. During these few minutes I found the courage to blurt out, ?Mr. Emery, you are an amazing man, a hero to me. I have Crohn?s disease and I?m a closet smoker. It?s a person like you who?s going to help bring marijuana legalization to our world.? His eyes lit up and his smile warmed my soul; he ran out to his car and brought back the September/October 1998 edition of Cannabis Culture Magazine and signed it for my then-husband and me. ?To Bruce and Michelle: Overgrowing the Government One Bud at a Time, Fear No Evil as the Truth is on Our Side. Marc Emery, Sept 98.? He wrote down his address and phone number on a separate piece of paper and invited my husband and I to come by sometime.

When I arrived home that evening I was ecstatic. Bruce came in and I was jumping up and down waving the signed magazine like a patriotic flag, ranting and raving that I had met Marc Emery. I had the phone in another hand, trying to tell both husband and mother at the same time, ?This man is going to change my life, and I?m going to change his!? I just knew from the moment he walked into the bank and we connected that this was the sign I was looking for to ?come out of the closet?.

Afghani BullriderThe Beginning of the Bottom

I was disgruntled job-wise and unsatisfied with my Crohn?s disease and myself. I began focusing on what I could do to help the world. In my eyes that purpose was to show the world a responsible, hard working disease-ridden person can survive by using cannabis, and marijuana wasn?t the evil drug the world had been told about for the past 75 years.

One week in March 2000, I picked up the local paper ? by fate as I say. There was an ad from Marc Emery in the Help Wanted section, looking for a housekeeper. I called him within minutes, holding the magazine he had signed and the hand written address. He remembered meeting me at the bank and was curious why an over-qualified young woman would apply to be a ?cleaning lady?. I wanted him to see me before hiring anyone else, and luckily he agreed.

I went to his home the next day armed with my resume and 6 pages of references. I knew he would see he needed me as much as I needed him, and within a few minutes I was hired. I noticed many different areas of both Marc?s business and personal life needed help and decided to get busy cleaning up, from his house to his wardrobe and eventually to relationships and firing/hiring staff. I did it all while becoming family and friend.

Michelle and Mike Reno of LoverboyMichelle and Mike Reno of LoverboyThe BC Marijuana Party

Marc decided to launch the BC Marijuana Party for the May 2001 provincial election. I was Deputy Financial Agent, Matthew Johnson was our Campaign Manager, and Marc and I were campaign co-chairs. Within just 20 days we got in 79 candidates for 79 ridings, proving to Canada and the rest of the world that a first-time marijuana political party could run a full slate.

Nervous but full of anticipation, I flew up to Dawson Creek (in northern BC) as the BCMP candidate for Peace River South to collect 50 signatures in order to be on the ballot. Within a day I had my signatures and paperwork submitted to Elections BC. I participated in Peace River South all-candidates debates that made not only my hands sweat but my armpits too! I was so proud of myself for promoting such an important issue, even if a few couldn?t help but giggle at the thought of a political party being about marijuana. This was an experience I?ll cherish for the rest of my life; quite an accomplishment for me as a young woman with Crohn?s disease.

We received 3.5% (54,000 votes). Of course, we did this with all of the 79 courageous candidates who fearlessly handed out pamphlets and buttons, bringing awareness and attention to ending marijuana prohibition.

Afghani BullriderAfghani BullriderThe Exemption

What a painstaking, gut wrenching (literally) fight for your life process! Back in February 1996 when I had decided to take my life into my own hands, I informed my doctor I was experimenting with cannabis. He believed in some natural healing and unconventional medicine but he couldn?t prescribe pot because Canada did not have any kind of medical marijuana program, so I continued with my secret ?cannabis experiment?. The sad part was I really couldn?t afford much even though I so desperately needed it, and not having a
reliable source for this miracle plant was frightening. Finally I was introduced to Pordgy and his wife, who were emotionally supportive at a time when I needed to identify with other cannabis users. He had a strain called William?s Wonder and oh, did it do wonders for me! Being able to get immediate relief and having such precious friendships made my disease more tolerable.

In the late 1990?s laws were starting to change in Canada for medicinal marijuana use, though only a select few diseases were on the ?A? list for exemption. I decided to take a chance and went to a new doctor, explaining to him that I wanted legal entitlement to use marijuana. The doctor looked as if I had asked for heroin but I begged for his no emergency room visits, just plain old ganja.

Michelle and Marc outside the BCMP bookstore.Michelle and Marc outside the BCMP bookstore.My doctor agreed it was working, but the Canadian Medical Association and College of Physicians didn?t agree with prescribing medicinal marijuana even though the government had allowed it for certain illnesses. He told me the rules would change and then we could soon proceed with the paperwork. ?Soon? came four years later in July 2005, when Crohn?s Disease finally made the med-marijuana ?A? list alongside Cancer, AIDS and MS. My doctor said he?d sign the forms that would allow me to possess and grow cannabis for myself once my gastroenterologist agreed to it. My gastro had not seen me since my last surgery in 1996 but all I needed was for him to confirm that cannabis worked, and my doctor would sign.

I walked into my gastroenterologist?s office armed with my mother. He didn?t even recognize me as his patient of 17 years! He not only proclaimed that I looked fantastic, but he knew prescription drugs were not the way to treat such a precarious disease and he agreed with using cannabis for Crohn?s. I?m so happy Emilie was there as a witness because it was the validation and vindication we so desperately needed for our souls. But when I went back to my doctor, he refused to sign the forms. I was absolutely crushed, even though he said my gastro could do it instead.

The next day while I was working in the BC Marijuana Party Bookstore, I received the call I was waiting for. My gastroenterologist said, ?Come see me tomorrow and I will sign the form.? I ran outside onto the sidewalk and screamed to the sky, ?Thank You God, finally!?

In October 2005, I received my Federal Medical Marihuana License. I can now legally possess and grow my own medicine. William?s Wonder has been unavailable for the past two years, but the strain I have found to be my miracle now is Afghani Bullrider. Thank goodness I am married to and adore my genius Jef Tek as he can help me grow this precious medicine. Now that is a love story with a happy ending ? as long as Canada doesn?t send me to die in an American prison.

Afghani BullriderAfghani BullriderThe Extradition

No human being should ever suffer the consequences of cannabis prohibition. It is imperative ? even if you do not use cannabis ? you agree to that statement?s validity. The Drug Enforcement Administration has targeted Marc Emery, Greg Williams and I for being marijuana activists.

I had accepted the reality of my disease at a young age knowing death may be possible, but never had I imagined I could die in a US prison, tortured with Crohn?s Disease, needing cannabis to exist and having no access. Marijuana gave me life again and I?ll be damned if the US Government is going to take it from me. We are really being punished for our progressive and pro-active work in ending prohibition. Please, I beg you all to not let The BC3 be extradited and sentenced to waste away in US prison.

My Legal Garden

My license from Health Canada entitles me to carry up to 300 grams, and cultivate up to 49 plants. I grow my Afghani Bullrider organically in 2-gallon pots using Pro Mix HP. When clones are about two weeks old I transplant them into Pro Mix in 16-ounce plastic drinking cups, with one hole in the bottom of each cup for drainage. 15 cups fit into one standard 10?x20? flat.

After the first watering (from the top to saturate the soil), plants are watered from the bottom by capillary action. Each tray of 15 will use over a liter of water and nutrients every day. This watering regime coupled with a 400-watt metal halide results in a strong well-developed root system and massive vegetative growth. Clones are ready for 1-gallon pots in two weeks, or when roots poke through the hole in the bottom of the cup. When you harvest, the last thing you want to do is throw out good dirt. I?ve successfully reused soil twice with no negative results. I use Botanicare?s Pure Blend Pro series of premium organic fertilizer. The best method is to use half the recommended nutrient strength and alternate this with plain water in a two to one ratio: water, water, feed.

Week four of the budding cycle begins by leaching the 2-gallon pots with plain water. During the bud cycle, a Hortilux 1000-watt highpressure sodium lamp in a 6-inch air-cooled reflector hangs a foot above the plants. A 4? by 4? frame covered with pond liner can hold 16 plants, and enables them to absorb water from the bottom. Each tray can consume 5 gallons of water or more per day in the height of bud production. These homemade trays are simple to move and clean.

After four weeks in bud, the plants receive nothing but water right up to harvest. The 1? clones will fill out to be 3? tall buds in about seven weeks. My medicine is left to dry and cure in a dark cool closet.

Afghani BullriderAfghani BullriderA Tokers Bowl Retrospective

The Tokers Bowl was a four-day annual pot sampling party for all five senses, a project I nurtured like a child. Each year had various activities including boat and bus tours by day, evenings filled with live entertainment and great food, and special events throughout the long weekend. 200 special individuals came to each event: doctors, lawyers, growers, parents with adult children, people from all walks of life. The anticipation every year was incredible. Once you arrived you didn?t want to leave, and you couldn?t wait until the next one.

The Fourth Tokers Bowl in 2005 was the most special and many guests were now becoming TB regulars. The costume ball theme was Super Heroes and Villains and the one-man show ?The Reeferman? by Russell Bennett astounded us all, leaving the audience wanting to plant legalization in every nation. On July 4th during the final judging party, I announced I would be marrying my Soul-Mate Jeff in front of all to witness. This was my dream come true after a lifetime of waiting for him.

Marc was Jeff?s best man and Heidi my gal-pal manager of the BCMP Bookstore was my maid of honor. Richard Cowan played my father and gave me away. My mom and the rest of my extended cannabis family were all there, and I could not have asked for a more spiritually fulfilling experience.Afghani Bullrider

? All four Tokers Bowls from 2002-2005 can be seen at www.tokersbowl.com and they will give you a delicious taste of what once was!