Crohn's Disease by Bruce Buckner

My name is Bruce Buckner. I am a 48-year old computer pre-press technician and webmaster from Seattle, WA. I play music with a couple different bands for fun and profit as well. As a child of the sixties, I‘ve smoked pot recreationally (or so I believed) since my teenage years.

I remember my first bouts of abdominal cramping and diarrhea around the age of nine or ten. I was told I was suffering from colitis, that it was just a “nervous stomach”. It was always particularly bad on days I woke early to go somewhere, so the “nervous stomach” diagnosis kind of made sense. The cramping and frequent bowel movements continued. I was going to the bathroom a dozen times a day.   I was always of slight build but by the age of twelve my weight had dropped off the “low normal” range of the height/weight charts. I became drastically underweight. (I am a 48 years old male who weighs 114 lbs.)

While attending the University of Oregon in Eugene, I was suffering from a particularly bad flare-up. I developed psoriasis, and started getting little red bumps on my lower legs, which I scratched into sores. My girlfriend was very concerned about my hot sweats and cramping. She finally convinced me to go the Student Health Clinic. I was very fortunate that the young doctor I saw was very familiar with Crohn’s (his wife had it). He was able to diagnose it right away, although he still made me undergo a colonoscopy the following week, which confirmed his diagnosis. He started me on sulfasalazine. This caused severe nausea and vomiting. The cure was much worse than the disease. The doctor gave me steroids (prednisone). This made me lay awake all night sweating. I was making all kinds of stupid mistakes, I backed my car into a light post, I lost my temper easily, I couldn’t handle the sleep deprivation and stopped taking the steroids. The doctor commenting on how I looked like I smoked pot (This WAS 1972) and told me his wife found that it helped. I had quit smoking that semester to concentrate on my studies, but whenever I was cramping, I smoked a couple joints from that point on.

Through the seventies and eighties, I worked in the music business as a musician, recording engineer, live sound engineer, and record company representative. My occupations allowed me to wake slowly, work late hours, and smoke lots of pot. Coincidentally, my Crohn’s was in almost total reemission. I still had occasional bouts of leg sores and cramping and diarrhea, but the cramping and bowel movements would subside after a couple hours and I would be OK the rest of the day. I was still underweight, but I could eat two or three times a day. In 1987, I was arrested for possession and given two years probation.

In an effort to obey the terms of my probation, I left the music industry, and utilizing the skills I had picked up from my hobby with the Macintosh computer. I went to work at a small magazine doing layout and photo scanning and prepping.  It wasn’t long before I started suffering from bad flare-ups again. When it began interfering with my work, my boss called me into the office. I was able to get my boss to change my hours. I worked from 2pm to 10pm. This allowed me to cramp and go to the bathroom enough times before going to work. Also, this meant there was nobody else around when I came back from dinner, to see me going to the bathroom so often, or be subjected to the tremendous amounts of gas I produced after my meal. I also started smoking pot in the mornings as well as after work. This was a manageable arrangement. In subsequent jobs, after establishing my work, I was able to make similar arrangement regarding my work hours. This, along with my smoking early and late kept my disease tolerable.

In 1997, the pre-press house I was working at decided to add several other workers to the late shift.

Within a month or two, I was laid off. I collected unemployment and to earn a little extra money, helped a marijuana farmer trim his crop. He paid me with a large amount of marijuana. Suddenly, my Crohn’s was in reemission again! 

It was only at this point that I realized smoking a little pot helped lessen the cramping, increased my appetite and helped me feel a little better, BUT smoking a lot of pot (a big joint every hour and a half) would keep the disease in a state of almost total remission.

Medical Marijuana had just become legal in California, I asked my doctor to write me a letter prescribing marijuana. He wrote it. Realizing there was no way I could afford the seven or eight grams of bud I needed to smoke daily in order to fend off major flare-ups. I started growing my own marijuana. I began working for myself as a web designer and administrator as well as developing many pre-press clients. I moved to a small rural beach community about 150 miles from the city, got a high speed cable modem and commuted to town once every week or two. I was having only one to three bowel movements in the morning, minimal morning cramping, I could eat any food I wanted; even my leg sores were going away! For the first time in my life I really felt happy. I had all the pot I needed to smoke, was living a stress free life, I started socializing and playing music again. This continued for nearly 5 years, but all good things must end.

In late November of 2001, even though I had been prescribed medical marijuana for treatment of my Crohn's Disease, I had a valid medical marijuana letter from my MD, as well as a diagnosis of Crohn's by three different doctors. the County Drug Task Force raided my home, destroyed my marijuana plants, destroyed my growing equipment, and took my car and my life's savings...I am currently suing the county for the return of my 10 year old Explorer and my money, equipment and pot. Although my attorney is confident we will prevail at trial, the prosecutor is continuing with criminal charges. Legal fees may run in excess of ten thousand dollars. And my state (Washington) has a medical marijuana law that specifically names Crohn’s Disease as a valid medical condition.

I have several relatives with Crohn’s Disease. Every one of them has had major surgery. Every one of them has had complications from the steroids and immune suppressors they have been prescribed. Most no longer have functioning excretory systems and are wearing pouches. I went to a specialist following my encounter with the task force who stated “Frankly, I can’t believe you could have gone thirty years with Crohn’s without major medical intervention, I have to question whether you really have Crohn’s.” He ordered an “enteroclysis” (a horrible procedure that I wouldn’t wish on anyone) which showed definite scarring and narrowing in my terminal ileum. The doctor had to admit that I did have Crohn’s and that I had kept the disease in control with marijuana.

I am firmly convinced that I would be in the same condition as my relatives with Crohn’s, if I hadn’t used pot. The medical use of marijuana has saved my colon and my quality of life.