Damian Marley’s song says marijuana is “Medication”; these videos prove it
Jr. Gong speaks on patient testimonials and why #CannabisHeals
Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley and his brother, Stephen “Ragga” Marley, shot the video for Jr. Gong’s new single “Medication” at the former Claremont Custody Center in Coalinga, CA. Once a correctional facility, it’s now the site of legal marijuana cultivation—part of the Ocean Grown cannabis corporation, co-owned by Jr. Gong. In the music video—directed by Nick Walker, produced by Christopher Salzgeber, and executive produced by Sheira Rees-Davies for Scheme Engine—footage of Bob Marley’s sons reveling in an ocean of fragrant ganja buds alternates with snippets of testimonials from patients who can verify the widespread belief that cannabis heals, because they know it for a fact, firsthand.
Today MASS APPEAL premieres seven stories of patients who have benefited from the use of cannabis, followed by exclusive commentary from Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley. These voices must be heard in this time, when cuts to health care programs are on the way, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions has asked congress to repeal protections against medical marijuana, when the senate is considering legislation that would give Sessions powers to escalate the federal war on drugs.
In April of last year, then Senator Sessions made the outrageous remark that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” This is a man who once said he was cool with the KKK until he learned that they smoked pot.
Now that Sessions is the U.S. Attorney General one can only hope that he will take a look at these videos and realize just how wrong he is. Here we see good people—writers, soldiers, children—whose health and well-being has been vastly improved by use of cannabis, an ancient herb whose healing properties have been touted for thousands of years —et which is classified under U.S. law as a dangerous substance with no health benefits, with only limited research allowed. Now that attitudes are starting to change there is still hope to harness the power of marijuana medication. Check the videos below, and then read Jr. Gong’s thoughts on the matter.
Stage-3 Colon Cancer: Sara Payan is the Director of Education for the Apothecarium, a San Francisco–based dispensary, and also serves as Vice Chair for the San Francisco Legalization Task Force. “I was really worried about losing my job if I used it [my cannabis card]. But I was also really worried about the drugs that I was gonna have to use… My chemo was really rough. I almost died twice.” A stage-three cancer survivor who had good results using medical marijuana during treatment, she went on to become an educator and advocate, spreading the word about the healing power of cannabis. “I am incredibly greedy,” she says. “I want all 24 hours of my day to mean something, and I finally found it in the weirdest of ways.”
Discoid Lupus Micah Fitzgerald is an actor who’s known for appearing it his series like Fear the Walking Dead and Westworld. In 1998 he was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder called discoid lupus. “They put about six doctors in the room and they came and explained to me that I was never gonna be able to be in the sun for the rest of my life,” he recalls. “You’re body’s allergic to the sun, and we don’t have anything to do for you. We could give you drugs, but honestly the drugs are not good for you.” Fitzgerald says he was terrified. “You’re trying to launch an acting career,” he says, “a guy who’s allergic to the sun, but you’re gonna move to Los Angeles?” But by smoking marijuana he finds he is able to function despite the symptoms of his disorder. “I’ve been able to survive 20 years without any additional medication from a pharmaceutical for my condition other than using medicinal marijuana,” he says. Fitzgerald is very clear that marijuana is not a cure-all for everything. “Like anything else if you abuse it and you don’t use it properly,” he says. Still he insists that cannabis has been unfairly stigmatized. “We deal with a lot of judgment as far as ‘this person’s a pothead or a weedhead or a dopehead.’ But I think if you take a look at some of the most creative people who’ve ever brought things to fruition and moved the world, many of them used marijuana as a conduit to get there. For me I don’t apologize for smoking. I’m glad that the laws are opening up and people are beginning to hear the truth about what it is, so many of us don’t have to live in judgment… We’re being criminalized for something that’s better than two of the products you have in every liquor store across this country.”
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder “One of the things about me, I’m always smiling,” says forty-year-old Michael Leo, who served 16 years in the Marine Corps. “Internally I’m dying. A lot of my pain is concealed.” He suffers severe anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of three combat deployments with Marine expeditionary units as a gunnery sergeant with over 100 KIAs. “A lot of my pain is concealed,” he says. “You don’t seek the treatment until the last moment.” He was prescribed 14 medications, seven at one time, and five as needed and two if you really need it. “I was a zombie,” he recalls. “When you take these medications it’s causing a secondary issue, so you’re helping one thing and hurting another.” He found a better alternative with cannabis, which is technically illegal for all service personnel. “All I need is cannabis and I can sleep, I can eat, I’m more social. There’s different types and ways I can use. Ways if I need to be more sleepy for insomnia if I have pain, and if I need to be high-functioning with the CBD affect. Cannabis is what treats everything that I have been diagnosed with, and more so.” As a Marine, he says he knows many individuals who did not break the rules and seek the benefits of cannabis. “Maybe if they had the ability to use,” he says, “maybe they wouldn’t have chose what they thought was the easy way out. Suicide is real,” he adds. “It’s big in our community.”
Torn Cornea: Brandon Bryant was living in New Orleans when he scratched the epithelial layer over his left cornea. Such injuries can heal quickly but since he didn’t go to the doctor his eye healed over some dirt. “They had to remove the dirt from my eye with tweezers while I was awake,” he recalls. “That sucked.” He ended up with a recurring injury that was “pain-killer resistant.” He used steroid ointments and the doctors told him he required radical laser surgery or he risked developing a scar to block his vision. After Hurricane Katrina he relocated to New York, where a “fancy doctor” recommended medical marijuana. She explained that cannabis reduces the pressure in the eye, the same reason it helps Glaucoma patients. “We’re talking about the kind of pain that you just can’t think through,” he says. “I’ve been injured, I’ve had lots of physical injuries. I know what pain’s like. This was a totally higher order of magnitude. I would have clawed the floorboards up if I knew there was something under there that would kill that pain. Smoking marijuana, you know, a bowl, was instant. I’d take a Vicodin or an Oxycontin and it would take a half an hour to just take the edge off the pain. I’d take a hit of just regular whatever somebody had in New Orleans and the pain would disappear in a minute—gone. I never looked back.” He also used marijuana to help him kick his dependency on opiates. “I would like to see people talk about medical cannabis the same way they talk about aspirin or getting a beer. I would like to see it freely available. Take a common sense approach. To the people who are standing in the way of that I would just ask ‘What are you afraid of?’”
Silas Tedesco & His Mom Ash
Acute Lympoblastic Leukemia: Since he was 19 months old, Silas Tedesco has been a cannabis patient. Back in 2013 he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia,” his mother Ash recalls. “I chose to use cannabis for him because I have seen cannabis work for so many different people in so many different instances.” For the first 24 days of his illness Silas was hospitalized and received chemotherapy with all the usual side effects. “He did have the nausea, the bone pain. He wasn’t walking. He had steroid pain. He wasn’t able to sleep,” his mother recalls. “Immediately when we started the cannabis oil he started taking steps again with eight days. He was able to start sleeping again. He started playing again. He was doing all the things that we needed him to do.” One particular type of chemotherapy resulted in seizures—as many as 30 in a day—but Silas’ mother was able to control the seizures with use of cannabis oil. “He’s eating and sleeping and he’s progressing and I tell it to anybody who’s listening, he’s run circles around me the entire way.”
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Brain Injury and Spinal Problems: Jake Scallan is the operations manager at Santa Cruz Veterans’ Alliance. He was medically retired and discharged from the Air Force due to post-traumatic stress, brain injury, and spinal problems. “I was really skittish, really alert, hyper-vigilance is what they say,” he recalls of his adjustment to civilian life. “I was having a lot of bad dreams, a lot of night terrors—and also a lot of pain.” After alienating many of his friends, he tried coping with alcohol and prescription drugs. “When you go to the V.A. for mental health they usually prescribe you a lot of anti-depressants,” he says. “You kind of build tolerances so you’re always switching pills. It doesn’t even really work, so you take more.” The situation only aggravated his anger and depression. “I tried taking my own life,” he said. “Pills don’t help… they only make it worse.” He found that medical cannabis gave him much better results. “It was a world of relief,” he said. “I eventually got off medications prescribed by the V.A. and solely medicate with cannabis.”
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Brain Injury and Spinal Problems Alan Burch was arrested for transporting just over 5 kilos, 10 pounds of marijuana and was locked up in the same prison that Damian Marley and his partners has now converted into a marijuana growing facility. “I did eight months just in the next dorm here,” he recalls. “It’s really ironic, a few short years I was doing time here for a marijuana offense and now they’re growing it in the next building over. I was sad at first. It brought back all the memories. I think I’ll leave here a better person, putting all this behind me.” Even more ironic, he is also a former member of the armed forces who was, until recently, taking loads of pills that were prescribed by the V.A. “My doctors told me the VA has huge contracts with pharmaceutical companies so it can push pills,” he says. “I started smoking for stress… I’m not strung out like I would be on pills. All I know is today I’m here and I’m healthy and I use medical cannabis.”
Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley
Damian has been making mad moves of late, kicking it in Kingston with Jay Z and Sister Nancy, jetting off to perform in Ethiopia, and then back to touring Europe. We spoke by phone from Zurich. The video for his single “Roar” is coming soon. Meanwhile, he prepares for the July 17th release date of Stony Hill, the long-awaited follow up to Welcome to Jamrock.
Your timing is incredible on this project.
Right now the U.S. government is debating these old debates all over again, so it’s great for these voices to be heard right now.
What was your reaction when you first saw this footage?
Well I was actually there when we were shooting some of them. So I was able to actually see some of the people in person.
Again, you know how it go already. We always represent “The Healing of the Nation” as Rasta and Jamaican—our culture always had that slogan. When you really get to witness these things now, it’s amazing!
I wan’ tell you, even especially the variety of illnesses that it’s helping with. It’s been a few years now that we know that it helps with epilepsy. And of course we know say it always helps cancer patients with their appetite and stuff like that. But when you really see the broad range of things that it’s really proven to be beneficial for, it’s “Wow.”
Yeah. We always heard Peter Tosh singing about “It’s good for Glaucoma.”
Yeah, that again too. Word.
But now we are hearing about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and…
Crohn’s Disease and all kinda ting. Yeah man…
At this moment, people are making the argument that the laws which are now in place to protect medical use should be overturned because there is too much crime associated with this plant. Do you feel like herb causes crime?
No, and neither do I feel that the legalization of herb causes crime neither. I don’t believe that. They would have to show me.
I saw you and Ragga in the video for “Medication.” That building where the video was shot is such a powerful symbol.
Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah man, it’s another something else that we’re very proud of. Again, the symbolism of turning a prison into a grow room speaks for itself. And it’s not something that we planned. But Jah set it, so it is great.
Most definitely. We’re look forward to the release of your album, Stony Hill, which I believe is actually coming out on your birthday. That’s a fitting way to celebrate the earth strong.
Yeah man, for sure. [Laughs] The plan isn’t 100 percent confirmed as yet, but I think more than likely I’ll be in New York.
There’s been a lot of media attention around your recent trip home with JAY-Z. How did you enjoy that?
It was cool. It was good to be an ambassador for our culture at that given time and to spend some time with an artist who I’m a fan of for many years. It’s out in the news, so obviously you know what I’m talking about, me and Jay. It was cool. It was a nice experience. Unfortunately I had to cut my trip to Ethiopia a little bit short—cause I flew to Jamaica from Ethiopia. I was supposed to spend a few extra days out in Ethiopia. Unfortunately that got cut short because of having to take that trip. But you know, it was cool.
Is that the first you’ve been to Ethiopia since the birthday celebrations?
Yeah, it’s the first time, and it’s something I was very proud of. Because I went there really just to play a concert. It wasn’t really any celebration of any special event, more than just going to just go play a show there—which I think it great. Because I would really love to see us be able to tour Africa just like how I’m touring Europe now. That was really a step in the right direction for me. Caw we did go couple other places too: We did go Kenya, and South Africa. Couple likkle islands. It was a good venture out into Africa.
Yeah, I noticed that you marked the anniversary of Distant Relatives on your Instagram the other day.
I know you’ve had these African movements in mind for some time, so it’s great to see the manifestations of that plan. Any last words on the whole concept of these “Medication” videos before we go?
Well, I would just hope that these testimonials will encourage people to do some research and educate themselves a little bit more about the plant. As an advocate, right now, of course I do believe that people should be free to smoke recreationally as do what they want as grown adults. But really it’s more about being an advocate for the medical benefits of it—whether that be through smoking or through the CBD or eating it or whatever the case may be. A lot of the battles will be won through education.
Even scientists haven’t even educated themselves fully.
No, because we’ve just now able to do the research. That’s a good point. It would be a shame if they were to pull that rug out from underneath us and slow down the research. Because the research is showing promise. With the research we’ll be able to learn more. So that’s a big part of it.
More knowledge, more life, and more strength to you sir.
Give thanks, Rob.