By Stephen C Weber
In 1988, a federal program made Elvy Musikka one of the first Americans to receive medical marijuana. Now a marijuana activist, she shares her inspiring -- and enraging -- story.
November 14, 2011 | LOS ANGELES — In 1988, Elvy Musikka (pictured) became the first woman in the United States to be legally permitted by the federal government to smoke marijuana for medicinal purposes, due to a case of Glaucoma that threatened to render her blind.
Photo Credit: Erik R. Bishoff on Flickr
Armed with a mountain of paperwork, a dedicated doctor and a savvy attorney, she managed to get both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to sign off on her right to access the only medicine that alleviated her symptoms, joining a tiny, exclusive group who have successfully used the legal system to gain access to medical marijuana grown by the feds.
To this day, reform advocates point to the Compassionate Investigational New Drugs program as a glaring hypocrisy. After all: How can the government continue to insist that marijuana has no medicinal value when it is also producing it as a medicine for this select group of patients?
Each and every month, Musikka eligible to receive 300 marijuana cigarettes, grown, rolled, packed and shipped by employees of the U.S. government, as part of a program that officially stopped accepting patients on orders of President George Bush, Sr. in 1992.
And if that sounds incredible to you, well, you’re not the only one. Every so often, Musikka has a run in with police, who’re usually incredulous at her explanation of why she possesses marijuana at virtually all times. That’s exactly what happened in Sept. when Musikka was pulled over by police in Oregon. They did not believe her, but after a few phone calls, police returned her stash and apologized.
“[Over the years] several doctors have said I have to smoke marijuana or I would go blind,” Musikka told Raw Story in an exclusive interview. “Some even gave me recipes for brownies and the like, because they saw that I was not psychologically oriented to smoke marijuana. I was scared to death of it. I believed every lie I have ever heard. And that made it very difficult because I was dealing with problems that I couldn’t solve with the conventional meds.”
But before she could legally use marijuana, Musikka was arrested in 1988 and charged with growing four plants on her property, and could have faced serious jail time.
“When I was arrested, I didn’t hire an attorney: I went straight to the press,” she said. “That is how [my attorney] found me … I didn’t have any money, so he did it totally pro-bono. So, between him and a wonderful doctor and a stack of medical records that would stagger your imagination, and my story, which the public followed faithfully in the media, the judge [sided with me]… That’s how I became the first woman in the United States to receive marijuana legally.”
Due to her unique status as one of just four federal medical marijuana patients still alive today, Elvy has spent the last two decades dedicated to study and activism, traveling the world to share her story and educate people on how she’s benefited from cannabis.
“When I tried it the first time, it was miraculous,” she said. “Long story short, I ate some brownies and went back to my [eye doctor]. My pressures came down from 56 in the right eye and 49 in the left eye, to 12 and 14. Nothing short of a miracle… I never needed the surgeries, as I have proved with my left eye which has actually improved thanks to marijuana.”
Her activism is also what brought Musikka to this year’s Drug Policy Alliance conference in Los Angeles, which she attends every time it’s held.
“I’ve been studying this now for 35 years and I can find no trace of sanity in arresting, criminalizing over 25 million of us over the last 40 years,” she concluded. “[So], I’m joining the occupations. I don’t know where else to take these problems anymore.
“After all my activism, I’ve come to the conclusion that unless you can have an awful lot of money so these people can get elected, even if these people speak about marijuana, we’re not going to get anywhere with any of our issues as long as corporate America owns all of us, especially the seriously ill.”