The World’s First Children’s book About Medical Marijuana
By Russell Barth
Activism started for myself and my wife Christine Lowe-Barth, in May 2002. We attended a “Million Marijuana March” rally on Parliament Hill, and after hearing people talk openly about how cannabis was saving their lives, Christine decided that it was time for her to make the leap as well. At that time, her Epilepsy was completely out of control; she was not getting any better. The pills were making her sicker all the time and she was still having seizures. She told me that she was planning to quit all of her medications and just use cannabis, If she was going to do this, it would affect me as well. Living under 24 hour supervision was difficult for us both. I was the one catching her when she had seizures. In my opinion, we had to be fully committed to trying this cannabis option. We had to go public. We had to become activists like the people we had seen at the rally.
Christine started using cannabis later that week, and has used it daily ever since. The frequency and ferocity of her seizures diminished by 75%. In 2002, she had between 60-70 seizures, In 2004 Christine had 13 seizures and in 2005 only 9 seizures.
In September of 2002, I gave a $300 to someone I thought was a friend, to get me cannabis for my fibromyalgia. He never came back. The anxiety and sense of betrayal caused me to go into a health spiral, and I started to lose weight immediately. I lost twelve lbs in twelve days, and was falling to a dangerous weight for my 6ft frame. My weight bottomed out at 129 by the end of that year, at least 25 pounds underweight
In December of 2002, I met a woman in a wheelchair on Bank Street in Ottawa. Using an electric wheelchair for most of my own travel needs, we stopped to talk to her to commiserate about the state of Ottawa’s sidewalks, and to pet her Pomeranian. We got talking about our respective medical situations, and she said that she was using ten Tylenol 3’s per day. We asked her if she had ever tried medical cannabis. She became shocked and offended. “What would I tell my grandson?” she asked. In unison, we answered “The truth!” “If he fell down and hurt his leg or something, he would want to use it too!” “Be sensible.” We told her.” You don’t give him T 3’s if he falls down. Just tell him granny’s medicine is for granny, and that is it.”
She was one of the most closed minded people I had ever met. The conversation was pointless. She did not want to hear what we had to say, and her behavior was falling just shy of her sticking her fingers in her ears and hollering “La la la…can’t hear you!”
Now, I have had numerous problems with prescription medications and alcohol myself over the years, and had felt the cold touch of withdrawal more than once.
She mentioned “addiction” and I asked her if she had ever tried kicking those T3’s? When I asked that question, there was a flash of recognition and shame across her face. I realized right then and there that I wasn’t arguing with a person any longer, I was arguing with a drug.
We parted ways, and headed home. On our way, one of us turned to the other (but we can’t remember which), and said “Someone should write a children’s book.”
About two weeks later, just days before Christmas, I was talking to my father on the phone while he vacationed in Florida. He has always been an avid prohibitionist, so we didn’t discuss cannabis. After I got off the phone, I said to Christine “How can I ever explain this activism stuff to him?” I mimed pointing to a book, as if teaching a child to read. “It is like I need to get him a little book that says ‘See Russell sick on his pills. See Russell using pot. See Russell feeling better.’ or something….” The moment froze as Christine and I looked at each other in awe, and our stomachs tightened. Right there in that moment, we saw the whole plan. A children’s book. Simple, delicate, non-intrusive, and non-promotional. Just the straight truth.
We also knew that to make a book about medical marijuana, aimed directly at the under-10-year-old market, was not only subversive, it was potentially dangerous. Done incorrectly, it could offend a large number of people, and might do more to hurt the movement to legalize marijuana than help it. We knew there was tremendous responsibility involved.
The text for the book was written in under two hours. I quickly jotted down lines, while picturing the layout of the book and illustrations. We did some preliminary sketches, and the first draft was completed the next day.
Within a week, we showed it to Mike Foster. He is a well-known “counterculture boutique” owner, well-seasoned activist in Ottawa, and a very good friend to Christine and I. He saw the first draft, and immediately got choked up. “You guys have to do this. This is an amazing idea.”
Over the month of January, Christine did the drawings for the illustrations, and we changed the text and the structure to accommodate. The story was based on my medical condition and events from my life, told through the eyes of a little girl, watching her mother. I left the text with Christine, and later, she would show me the drawings for each frame. I burst out crying more than once. The most difficult task was the coloring. We had scanned all of the ink drawings, and loaded them into the computer. I spent the month of February 2003, touching up millions of little black and white dots, and then colorizing the images as they appear in the book. When Mike saw the first print of the completed work, he said “I like it so much, I think I will publish it myself.” He has taken care of the business end of the whole project ever since. He paid to have 2000 copies printed up, and they have been slowly selling over the past two years.
Christine and I had been on TV and in print more than once by this time, and when the book was finally released on April 21, 2003, we tried to hustle up some publicity. We decided that the proceeds of the book would go to The National Capital Compassion Society, an Ottawa-based not-for-profit organization that Christine, Mike, myself, and many others helped found. So far, Mommy’s Funny Medicine has raised about $1000 for the NCCS, and we have had nothing but positive feedback. Copies of it have been put on display in the Cannabis Museum in Amsterdam, and is registered with an ISBN number in the National Library Of Canada.
For copies of Mommy’s Funny Medicine, contact:
Crosstown Traffic 593 – C Bank St, Ottawa, ON, K1S 3T4, Canada 613-234-1210 firstname.lastname@example.org www.crosstowntraffic.ca