Dixie June never thought a lollipop would change her life forever.
Little did she know that a single sugary snack in Nevada would lead her to years of advocacy and the founding of the Columbus chapter of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
A former floral designer, June lives with a degenerative disc disease that causes chronic debilitating pain.
“I take the prescribed medicines, but in 2015 I got deathly sick,” she recalled. The doctors found out that the pills had been causing internal bleeding in her stomach.
June was in the midst of dealing with this new medical condition when she took a trip to Nevada, a state with broad medical marijuana legalization.
“Someone gave me a tinctured lollipop with marijuana,” she said. “I was pain free. I had no side effects, no upset stomach, no nausea, no jitters. I was there for two weeks and didn’t take a single pill. I just had suckers.”
It was an epiphany for June, she said. She dove into research and began reaching out to the Atlanta chapter of NORML. After two years of online advocacy, they asked if she would be interested in starting a chapter in Columbus. June agreed.
“I’ve never done this before, but I said ‘Why not?’ Let’s educate people,” she said. “We’re not breaking any laws, we’re not meeting up and swapping our product. We want to spread education. We want to change laws. We want, ultimately, reform and legalization. The prohibition days are over.”
She said that NORML’s primary mission is “reform of marijuana laws for personal use, medical use and industrial use — which is, of course, hemp.” She said the main focus right now will be on education and working to improve access to medical marijuana for patients.
Marijuana’s usefulness as a medicine is still largely undetermined, as its legal status still prohibits most academic research. Medical marijuana is legal in Georgia, but only for a small list of conditions. About 1,700 Georgia patients and 350 doctors have registered with the state to use medical marijuana.
June says that a major issue is that those patients have little way to obtain medicinal cannabis, as Georgia has no dispensaries. June spoke admiringly of state Rep. Allen Peake’s clandestine efforts to deliver cannabis oil to Georgia patients, a practice that could land him in prison if authorities press charges.
“We’re going to run into a lot of friction,” June said. “Nobody has a clue — everyone thinks marijuana is still just to get high. Right now Columbus has a lot of old-school ways. But we have Fort Benning, we have a lot of veterans that need the medical marijuana. The pharmaceuticals aren’t doing it. We need to be heard.”
The group now has an active Facebook page and meets every third Thursday of the month at the Mellow Mushroom on Veterans Parkway.