For the past 27 years, Elvy Musikka has received tins full of 300 marijuana joints rolled and sealed with the approval of the U.S. government.Musikka, 75, is one of four remaining people enrolled in the federal government’s first and only medical marijuana program since the drug became illegal in 1937.
“I have no drugs in my medicine cabinet. I take care of all my needs with one herb,” Musikka said in a phone interview from her home in Eugene, Ore.
Musikka’s rare status as a government-sanctioned medical marijuana user has made her a star in the midst of the legalization movement. She has been interviewed by USA Today and traveled the world speaking about the issue. She’s scheduled to talk at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, April 18 at the 19th annual Moscow Hempfest where a new petition will be introduced in hopes of getting marijuana on the November 2016 Idaho ballot.
“I have been absolutely nowhere where people don’t need it desperately and want to change these laws,” Musikka said.
At age 35, Musikka was diagnosed with glaucoma. To her surprise, her doctor suggested she try marijuana to help relieve the extreme pain and pressure behind her eyes. She was afraid.
“I believed every myth I’d ever heard. I believed it was a dangerous drug,” Musikka said.
Desperate for relief, she obtained the herb illegally and discovered it helped immensely. In 1988, after attempts to obtain marijuana legally, she was growing her own plants at her home in Florida and was arrested on felony charges of possession. At her trial she was acquitted for reasons of medical necessity. A couple months later, she was accepted into the government’s program. To enroll, patients had to prove that marijuana was the only therapeutic drug that would alleviate symptoms from their varying illnesses. The government stopped accepting new patients to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration program in 1992.
Musikka believes that marijuana not only relieves her symptoms but is also capable of restoring the sight in one of her eyes, which she claims was damaged by surgeries she agreed to in the past and now regrets.
“I was thinking I was trading my eyesight for brain cells. … I thought that since I was taking marijuana I would lose all kinds of brain cells, it’s exactly the opposite. It rebuilds your brain cells. The theme of my life is ignorance blinds us,” she said.
In 1990 Musikka read the book “The Emperor Wears No Clothes: Hemp and the Marijuana Conspiracy,” a history of cannabis by Jack Herer detailing the political and economic events that led to prohibition and the U.S. war on drugs.
“Even though I had been arrested and had my trial I still had no idea we were arresting hundreds of thousands of people yearly,” said Musikka, who became a vocal and passionate proponent of legalization.
Musikka moved to Oregon after the state approved medical marijuana. She now receives half a year’s supply there and the other half from the government. The marijuana the government supplies varies in THC level, whereas in Oregon she can consistently get a high-quality product, she said. However, she is having difficulty finding a doctor in the Northwest willing to take on her case.
For more than 40 years Musikka has watched social attitudes shift. She credits the Internet for helping end “102 years of ignorance.”
“I’m sorry I had to be blinded by ignorance but it really opened my eyes to the responsibilities we have to the planet and to each other. … For a government to come between a patient’s suffering and the benefits of this herb is immoral and unconstitutional. To arrest a patient for choosing the creator’s work, that’s blasphemy, blasphemy, blasphemy,” she said, quoting the line she ends her speeches with.
Other speakers at Hempfest include Musikka’s caregiver and activist Lori Duckworth; Steve Phun, stage manager and emcee from the Seattle Hemp Fest; and Serra Fran Boise founder of Moms for Marijuana. Dana Wilson and Bill Esbensen of New Approach Idaho in Boise, will debut a petition to recognize medical marijuana, decriminalize small quantities of cannabis and support hemp cultivation for farmers. They hope to gather 47,000 registered voters’ signatures to get the issue on the 2016 November ballot. More information about the petition is available at www.legalize208.org.
IF YOU GO
What: Moscow Hempfest
When: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, April 18
Where: East City Park, Moscow
Of Note: The festival features bands from Moscow, Boise and Spokane, speakers and an array of vendors.