When Russ Britt started having blurred vision in his left eye, he didn’t think a trip the eye doctor would end up with a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.
Britt’s eye doctor referred him to a doctor who ordered an MRI and he was diagnosed with MS as a result of tests.
Britt, a Naples resident for 30 years, has been coping with the disease for two years.
The cause of MS is still unknown to researchers. It attacks the immune cells and tricks them into attacking the nervous system.
The nerves are damaged on the process and their impulses slow or stop. The result is debilitation symptoms that affect almost every function of the body.
Birtt’s pain is constant — causing problems with his ability to walk, talk, see, plus arm and hand coordination.
Britt. 40, is part of a movement in Idaho to give voters a chance to get the medical marijuana choice on the ballot for November’s election.
The Idaho Medical Choice Act, as it is called, is being promoted by Compassionate Idaho, the national organization for Repeal of Marijuana Laws and Idaho Moms for Marijuana.
Opponents of the Idaho Medical Choice Act argue that it is too dangerous to use, lacks FDA approval, and that various legal drugs make marijuana use unnecessary.
They say marijuana is addictive, leads to harder drug use, interferes with fertility, impairs driving ability, and injures the lungs, immune system, and brain. They say that medical marijuana is a front for drug legalization and recreational use.
Proponents of medical marijuana argue that it can be a safe and effective treatment for the symptoms of cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, pain, glaucoma, epilepsy and other conditions.
They cite dozens of peer-reviewed studies, prominent medical organizations, major government reports, and the use of marijuana as medicine throughout world history.
“I have collected about 120 signatures per meet and greet; I get more when I am at an event,” Britt said.
Britt wants people to know this is an issue of extreme importance, not only to him, but to many people who suffer debilitating, ongoing or life threatening disease.
“Someone has a friend or family member who has had medical marijuana help them,” he said. “This isn’t about smoking pot.”
Britt said he has used it himself so he know how it works and that it does work. With MS he has to get weekly shots that actually slows down his immune system. The medication causes Britt severe side effects. The marijuana helps him cope with these side effects which include flu like symptoms and body aches.
He wants people who think the method is taboo to know that smoking marijuana isn’t the only way to receive the medical benefits. It has been used as a tea, in a vaporizer, in cookies or by an eye dropper.
“For people who take chemotherapy, they don’t have an appetite and vaporizers often help them ingest the medical property of marijuana,” said Britt. “Smoking is the least healthy way to ingest it, but for some it is the easiest way.”
Britt said most of the people he comes across believe medical marijuana should be on the ballot, but they are afraid to publicly come forward because of their positions in society.
“I have a friend who works in law enforcement whose mother had cancer and it helped her, but my friend can’t come forward because she is afraid of what people will think,” Britt said.
Britt also pointed out that medical marijuana is legal in Oregon and people in Idaho go across the state line to get it, money that could be coming to Idaho is going to Oregon.
In Oregon, marijuana still remains a controlled substance under state law for non-medical marijuana cardholders, and possession, cultivation, and delivery are illegal.
However marijuana is legal to use, possess, cultivate, and deliver for patients who have a doctor's prescription and are registered under the auspices of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program.
In 1972, the US Congress placed marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act because they considered it to have no accepted medical use. Since then, 16 of 50 US states and DC have legalized the medical use of marijuana.
Britt would like to see Idaho become state number 17. He is recruitiing people who would like to help him get this vote on Idaho’s ballot. He encourages anyone who believes medical marijuana is an advantage to people with severe illness should contact him.
He has a petition stand set up ready for events. He has held meet and greets in Sandpoint, Bonners Ferry, Naples and Clark Fork. He would like to organize a group locally to help him spread his message.
Britt is collecting signatures from 8 a.m. and noon on the first and third Saturday of the month at Northwoods Bar and Grill Downtown Naples, and at A.J.’s Lanes the first Wednesday of each month.
He also takes signatures between 5 and 7 p.m., the first Monday of the month at Eichardt’s Pub and Grill in Sandpoint.
For more information, call Russ Britt at 290-8023 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org