I began consuming cannabis at a pretty young age; I was turning 14 soon and in Junior High.
Of course, I started recreationally, it was 1977 and there wasn’t any information on medical cannabis anywhere. Back then in Toronto, I was considered a wild teen that came from a rocky family background. I was bounced around in the Children’s Aid Society for years and that instability left me rebellious during my youth. With little to no guidance and no permanent living situation, Yonge Street was my playground much of the time. I grew up fast, mostly because I had too.
I developed a seizure condition when I was about 12 years old. Doctors diagnosed me as having Epilepsy after recurring episodes of grand-mal seizures became more frequent over the course of a year. To control it I was placed on some very heavy pharmaceuticals, Dilantin, and Phenobarbital. The pills left me listless most times. I was always tired. They got stuck in my throat and I just hated taking the pills!
I was on the heavy meds for just over a year when I started experimenting with cannabis. Usual teenage stuff, with friends from school. (It was the 70’s!)
Around the same time, I started rebelling against my guardians about taking the pills.
Meeting friends for a toke became a daily event, when I consumed, I just felt better. I mean ya, I “got high” but after I came down, I always just “felt better.” Back then, this feeling was attributed to addiction.
My consumption became more and more frequent. I “got caught” several times in the early days! Guardians, school personnel, social workers, I didn’t care. I owned up to it every time.
In early 1978 I went to a neurology appointment at Toronto Western Hospital. I was one of the first 100 people to get a CT scan in the city from the new tech advancing into the hospital. They looked at my brain for the cause of the seizures. A small tumour was found, just a spec, but enough to cause my issues they said.
During that appointment, my guardian at that time (I refer to her as “Mom” from here on out) jumped on the opportunity to literally tell on me to the Doctor!
“Well she stopped taking her pills & she’s smoking that pot!” she said. lmfao.
I looked at the Doc and said, “Yup that’s right, and I haven’t had a seizure for a month, so I don’t need the pills anymore”
To my surprise, the doc sat up and said “Well, there are studies that say marijuana can have an effect on seizure activity….”
Well I almost fell over; my mom’s eyeballs were poppin’ and I burst into laughter out of sheer joy while the social worker looked dumbfounded!
After a few minutes for us all to digest (and for me embrace) what the Doc had just said, he went on to tell us about studies in the 1940’s and the use of cannabis pre-prohibition.
Did I get lucky or what?! I got the Bohemian Doc from Switzerland telling my mom & social workers to let me smoke pot! Lol
Now don’t get me wrong, back then I don’t even know if I actually believed it myself. I mean to me, a rebellious teen, it was a great excuse to smoke pot!
My mom never hassled me about it again and I could smoke pot in the house. Mom even defended me to friends and family always saying, “The Doctor Said It Was Okay”!
I never took another pill for seizures again. Even though I didn’t make the connection at the time, the episodes of seizure activity became less and less frequent as my consumption went up. I have been seizure free now since 1995.
After that appointment with the neurologist, being the rebel that I was, I dove head-first into finding out what I could about cannabis, the medical connections and prohibition.
Now this was in the days before we had any computers, cell phones, or any tech! We had newspapers, magazines, books, microfiche, and the telephone.
I found an organisation called NORML, got an address and signed up, by mail!
NORML is the National Organisation to Reform Marijuana Laws and they are based in the USA. They sent me a large envelope with a petition & pages for people to sign. The petition was to show support to bring NORML to Canada.
So there I was, with my newfound freedom and drive, standing on Yonge Street in Toronto asking people walking by to sign my petition and telling them my story with the Dr.. I filled all 10 pages that they sent me. I sent them right back with a sense of pride for the first time in my life.
That was my first experience with cannabis activism. I have been vocal about cannabis ever since.
Ahh the 70’s! Where it all began
To Be Continued…
Next up it’s Big Hair, Disco & My First Born
Gotta Be The 80’s!
Kim "Northern Ontario" Cooper CEO NOCER Org./ Northern Ontario Cannabis Education & Resources Joint Host On The P.A.C.E. Radio Show & Reefer Reporters Associate Producer at PACE Radio Network