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Autumn 2004
O'Shaughnessy's
Journal of the California Cannabis Research Medical Group

Pat Humphrey: His Brother's Keeper

From a recent broadcast of “Shattered Lives” on KZFR radio
KZFR: This is Sharon North. I’m joined in the studio by Pat Humphrey who is director of the Laughaway House here in Butte County and caregiver to Jack, his brother who has mental illness. Welcome Pat... I think of you as someone who is forging the way for so many of us who not only have issues of mental illness in our family, but also people are very concerned about the use of medical marijuana in our society and understand the importance of that. So thank you so much for everything you are doing. Do you want to give us a little background on how you came to be working in this area?
Pat: It’s been a lot of years since my brother’s injury and his illness presented itself. In the late 1960s people really didn’t understand mental illness as much as they thought they understood it... When someone’s young and schizophrenia expresses itself, it comes out in a number of ways: what they’ve been imprinted with when they were children, what they were raised like, and how they are because of that.
At the time, people didn’t understand my brother. We understand him a lot more now. He took too much LSD (with contaminants) when we were young. They took him to the mental hospital and medicated him. By doing this, they didn’t know what was going to happen.
KZFR: Do you think they were doing experimental testing on him?
Pat: I don’t think they knew. They probably thought, “Here’s a bad kid who took too many street drugs.” They didn’t really care. The point is he came out with a different personality. We were trying to figure out what was wrong, but it was the schizophrenia presenting itself. We started to try and work through a system that didn’t have any room for mental health. We ran here from southern California about 15 years ago.
KZFR: How long was he in the mental hospital?
PAT: 13 years in a mental hospital and prison. We came here and the mental health people wanted to be helpful but they didn’t know much about my brother for years and years until we started communicating. Because of other things that had happened while trying to get my brother help, it created a big wall between me and trusting the system. Once we established the trust, they didn’t know what to do because he was using street drugs. They couldn’t keep him under control or manageable. There was no room in mental health facilities for the mentally ill. The only alternative we saw was ,“How do we keep him happy? How do we keep him contained so he isn’t a danger to himself or others?” Marijuana was effective medicine, though we didn’t know at the time.
KZFR: At the time it was considered a street drug.
Pat: Yeah. So obviously in telling Mental Health that marijuana does work for medicine, we didn’t know how to say it at the time. We were saying, “All he has to do is smoke pot and things got better.” So we went on that position. It took a long time for them to understand: sometimes it’s okay to make somebody friendly. Many think we’re not meant to be here and just be happy. We’re supposed to work and pay taxes. So it takes years and years to prove that maybe you are mental and maybe you should be taken care of.
Taking care of my brother is what brought this new concept: the manageability that marijuana brings to the mentally ill.
KZFR: I’ve had the opportunity to meet your brother. He’s very friendly. He’s someone who appears to possibly be aggressive but he’s not. He’s just a friendly, kind person. I understand in the past that that was not the case, always. Because of his mental illness, he didn’t have that ability to associate in the general public and that marijuana has brought him a long way toward that goal.
Pat: It did make him exceedingly friendly. He went from being withdrawn and not speaking very often when he came out of prison. Then they let him come out and live with people again and he ran to the woods. He was living in the mountains. Finally, we got him to come out of the woods. Then Mental Health and the conservator of Butte County made an agreement to let him live with us if he agreed to take his medication. Actually, when they made that agreement, that’s what changed our lives. They said, “We’ll let you smoke marijuana but we can’t buy it for you, but you can grow it.” So, that was all I needed to know. I couldn’t believe this, because they had arrested me for growing it.
KZFR: Once your brother agreed to live with you and take his medicine, they made you his conservator.
Pat: His medicine was Halidol, injections of Halidol, not marijuana. Marijuana is the side-effect medicine we use. Friendly medicine. Happy, manageable medicine. It erases the aggression. We call it frequency enhancements in his brain. You could see directly the relationships of what was happening with his actions by using cannabis. It made him more accepting of things. He wouldn’t have breaks of aggression because of something he wasn’t able to understand. He became less frustrated. Friendly. He hugs people now whereas before he would never do that. He helps me raise my children now. I’m a single parent. They’re young. They do great together.
KZFR: I’m sure they love Uncle Jack.
Pat: Yeah, he’s like a big teddy bear, really hairy and a really big guy. Now he has more friends than I do. He loves smoking with all the patients and interacting, and from that we decided to look a little more into mental health issues and medicine and manageability medicines. I found that they don’t have any side-effect medications that work with any symptoms later in your life. Once we found that he could still be happy and take his medicine the county gives him, the interaction was quite good. He came back to being who he used to be.
KZFR: As a conservator for your brother, you have a very unusual position —not only in Butte County but probably the world— as someone who has been directed by the court to grow marijuana for your brother’s use for his medicine. You did that not through the criminal process but through the civil court process. Is that correct?
Pat: Actually, it was something we requested. We didn’t know that my brother Jack didn’t apply for a recommendation from a doctor because he was under conservatorship. When they gave us a check for the doctor who recommended the medicine, Dr. Mikuriya told me he couldn’t accept it because Jack was protected by law under the conservatorship program. What we did is we stayed in touch with the conservator. They said, “Grow it, don’t break the law, stay by the guidelines.”

Patients helping patients is probably the best way to really help someone —talking to someone who’s been there.

What came from that, besides the medicine, is the fact that Jack had a life... meeting other patients, people like him. It is astounding to see the way he interacts with other mental patients. Patients helping patients is probably the best way to really help someone —talking to someone who’s been there....
In Mental Health now they agree that there is something to this but they’ve worked in the system their whole life and the government puts out propaganda and misinformation... But we get smarter. We can say the decisions we made years back were not good. We should change government attitudes —quit prosecuting and look at this more as medicine...
There’s a lot of people who make money because of eradication, because of prosecutions. The way I look at it is lawyers can still make money, this time by going back to court and taking off the felonies.
KZFR: That’s such an important issue when you talk about how much money is spent. I can’t imagine the amount of money you’re saving the government by being a caregiver for your brother.
Right now we have money spent on the war on drugs this year —as of today at 5:15 pm— 11 billion,351 million,196 thousand, and 924 dollars, and we are a little over halfway through the year. For by-the-minute updates, go to www. drugsesnse.org. The number of people arrested for drug law offenses this year was 933,179. That’s someone arrested every 20 seconds in this country.
Pat: My brother’s been arrested over 10 times. He’s been to jail and mental institutions a number of times. He’s cost our government when he was incarcerated probably a little over $100,000 a year, depending on where he was because of his condition, needing a secure environment. Then all the funding went away. There’s no place for the mental except in prison. So when they put him in prison, I guess they figured that’s all they can do instead of helping him.
But what we found, by having no other solution on how to make any money, is from the medicine we’d grow for my brother, we’d take the extra medicine and take donations from the patients and that’s what he lives on.

We save the government probably $90,000 a year

I didn’t know at the time how much money we were saving our government but one of the Mental Health people told me to take care of a person in a mental health facility costs a little over $100,000 per year. They probably spend a little over $10,000 a year now to take care of my brother. If you add up how many years he was in prosecution and in prison and on parole, we save the government probably $90,000 a year over many years. So, I’m seeing we have this big deficit now. Maybe we should look at things a little different.
KZFR: And you are looking at things differently. You are processing the anger you felt for the years of mistreatment of yourself and your brother differently.
Pat: You learn how to act but I’m screaming inside all the time. What makes me better is helping other people. What makes my brother better is helping other people. That makes us a tighter family. It makes us economically acceptable. We’re not on welfare. I’d like to hug Butte County but I think they’d probably think I was mental...
I know that through the years, the sheriff has come to understand more about my brother.
KZFR: Do you mean our current Sheriff Reniff?
Pat: Sheriff Reniff and the deputies who’ve come out to the house for different things. I totally support Sheriff Reniff. I think he’s a wonderful person and a great sheriff... and I can’t say enough about the sheriffs here because even as scary as my brother is, they always understand...
I don’t really know how to talk about these things because these are things I never considered would be a viable means of solving some of society’s problems. But the amount of money that the DEA reports that they confiscate every year, the value of the plants they confiscate, to me seems like if we quit prosecuting and start taxing and regulating, we could form a civil-based mental health system that wouldn’t have to ask for money.
KZFR: There’s an initiative on the ballot in November regarding taxing the rich. Anyone making over a certain amount of money would be taxed a percentage and that would go directly to mental health in California. So what you’re suggesting is that instead, we have a taxation method to tax the marijuana grown in this state...
Pat: It would only be one part of a system that should be funneling money heavily into mental health. When you look at the way things are and where people come from — drug addiction, dealing with their issues, legal alcohol sales and all the tools they have to self-medicate— the sheriffs are the ones who are at risk, not only the families of that person, but the sheriffs, too. Better to decriminalize. That’s why we call this the Laughway House. They consider laughing a side effect, a bad side effect, to marijuana.
I look at it as a positive enforcement of humor. You laugh, it’s like sneezing, you feel great. When people laugh, it’s healing. If you can laugh at something now, then it’s not bothering you. So, I look at laughter as a medicine. Laughter is an alternative to crying.
KZFR: And, in fact, many of the people working in mental health consider laughter a medicine.

It depends on how you achieve laughter. Some people need a primer. That’s what cannabis is.

Pat: It depends on how you achieve laughter. Some people need a primer. That’s what cannabis is. When I saw my brother laugh for the first time in so many years, I knew there was hope. Once he laughed, he was laughing at himself, laughing at me, laughing at society. Now he’s getting better.
KZFR: That’s great. Folks, this truly is an amazing miracle. I know that there are a significant number of people out there, if it’s not yourself, you have your friends or relatives, who have mental illness. This is a very serious subject that our society does not deal well with. We need to consider all options, all options possible. If cannabis is an option, as Pat is saying, I have seen the proof. It is amazing. His brother is wonderful person who really can function, which is something that never would have been thought of in the traditional medical world.
Pat: I just saw on the Cannabis News Network that someone was saying that schizophrenia is caused by marijuana. I don’t know where they get their research.
KZFR: I understand you’ll be posting a website in the near future.
Pat: Yes. Feather River Canyon Mental Health. It’s a new approach to mental health issues. E-mail me at patrick<AT>laughwayhouse.com
KZFR: Patrick, thank you so much for everything you’re doing.

 

 

O'Shaughnessy's
O'Shaughnessy's is the journal of the CCRMG/SCC. Our primary goals are the same as the stated goals of any reputable scientific publication: to bring out findings that are accurate, duplicable, and useful to the community at large. But in order to do this, we have to pursue parallel goals such as removing the impediments to clinical research created by Prohibition, and educating our colleagues, co-workers and patients as we educate ourselves about the medical uses of cannabis.
 
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The Society of Cannabis Clinicians (SCC) was formed in the Autumn of 2004 by the member physicians of CCRMG to aid in the promulgation of voluntary standards for clinicians engaged in the recommendation and approval of cannabis under California law (HSC §11362.5).

As the collaborative effort continues to move closer to issueing guidelines, this site serves as a public venue for airing and discussing these guidelines.

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