Nate Bradley is the executive director of Lawmen Protecting Patients, members of the law enforcement community whose lives benefited from the use of medical marijuana and now advocate on behalf of cannabis patients.
How did your organization come about?
Lawmen Protecting Patients is made up of retired and disabled law enforcement officers who have become medical marijuana patients. It was founded from a need. I became a patient in October 2009 when I got laid off from my job in law enforcement, where I had been about six-and-a-half years. I was on about seven pills at the time for PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder]. Through a period of a couple years of meeting patients on the job I came to change my views on [medical marijuana].
I started thinking about using it for myself after being at my doctor’s office, begging for something just so I could sleep at night. So I became a patient and began going to dispensaries and meeting patients at collectives and different associations. I just started thinking there’s got to be more law enforcement guys out here who have become patients. When I couldn’t find an organization like that anywhere, I thought, “Well, I’ll start one.” I started finding other guys that were patients from all over the country, a few up in Canada. A lot of these guys are already active in their own states, but doing it on their own. Now they have an organization they represent. I do a lot of education on top of that. We hold classes for patients, like what to do if you get stopped by the police, what to do if they come to your house.
It’s been a blast. In just the last year and a half I have lived more than I have the rest of my 32 years of existence.
What do you think about the recent federal crackdown?
They really don’t understand how much money they’re wasting. Law enforcement doesn’t have an unlimited budget. Every time they send a U.S. attorney just to file paperwork on a club, that U.S. attorney is not going to be going after another crime. We’re literally getting softer on other crime when we go after medical marijuana. The problems that we have are because of the federal government’s involvement. They intervene every few years, states try to do something, and they intervene again. That’s why we have these issues, because we can’t get any solid regulations through. They’re creating their own problem every time they crack down. And plus it’s a science; their arguments are 20 years old. My wife’s in nursing school right now; it’s in her pharmacology books, the medicinal uses of marijuana. Get out of the dark ages.
Why do you think the federal stigma has been so persistent?
Fear of change. There is a bill, HR 236, that Ron Paul and Barney Frank introduced a couple months ago, that would have allowed states to control their own laws, without legalizing marijuana. Lamar Smith, of congressman from Texas, won’t even call it for a hearing. It’s not based on an ounce on science, it’s just fear. It’s just people in positions of authority that still hold those beliefs. But the pool is getting smaller. It’s just a matter of getting more people in office and getting more people to speak out.
Looking down through history, in order for things to change states have to do it first, in violation of federal law. We’re also working with LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, on a national awareness campaign to get the public involved. One hand-written letter to a member of congress is taken like it has the backing of 40,000 people. If we could just get 1,000 people to write letters, it would make such a difference.
What is the biggest myth the public believes about medical marijuana use?
That it doesn’t actually work. I don’t think people understand that there are scientifically proven benefits for patients. It’s not just like how people compare it to taking a shot of whiskey that relaxes you for a minute. It actually helps your body. The endocannaboid system, discovered in 1991, creates all the enzymes present in marijuana already in our body. It controls our hunger, it controls our anxiety, it relaxes our muscles. So every time you ingest marijuana, you’re just introducing the same chemicals into your system that it already produces. You’re not introducing anything toxic.
How should dispensaries deal with the increased federal regulation?
Stay under the radar. People who have been raided were making a lot of money and doing a lot of advertising.
Our U.S. attorney up here, Benjamin Wagner, says he’s not concerned about small growers and actual caregivers. But I think they needed to be better educated on who actually needs this, because their view is very narrow. As long as you’re a patient or a person who is legitimately helping someone you don’t have to worry. It’s the people making $50,000 week that need to look out. The answer to that is just don’t do it.
What’s on the agenda for your organization?
Nest year we’re going to be focusing on the state capitol. We’re working with Ammiano’s office to amend SB 420. We have our own legislation to help prevent parents [who use medical marijuana] from having their children taken away, because that happens all the time. We’re also pushing for better regulation.