Myakka River is at flood stage and it is remarkably easy to launch the kayak.  Drive to park, drive along Park Drive, stop and launch.  The water is up to the road or over it.  You can kayak through the trees and find some new surprises, like this frog from today.

Three Weeks at Myakka

On May 27th I travelled out to the Park and found the drought situation was more severe than ever.  The official river gauge was 0.07 inches.  In short, there was no Myakka River.  Check out this photo from the Park Drive bridge.

Taken from the Park Drive bridge, May 27, 2012. The Myakka River gauge on this day was 0.07 inches. There was, essentially, no river.

I walked down the bank to the river bed and shot this photo looking back at the Park Drive Bridge.

Taken from the north river bank, looking back towards the Park Drive bridge. May 27, 2012

From that vantage point it was an easy trek up the dry river bed.  It was quite astonishing to stand on the river bed, knowing that normally the waters would be easily 4-5 feet high.  On May 27th there was barely a trickle.

Taken on the Myakka River bed, facing north on May 27, 2012. The river gauge this day recorded 0.07″.

My next stop was just up the road, in a small picnic area that has no name.  I’ve taken many pictures here over the years but had never seen things this dry.

A completely dry river bed on Myakka River, May 27, 2012.

Can things get any worse?  Probably so but thankfully not.  A week later I would return to Myakka River State Park and the contrasts would be amazing.  During the week we had one day of good rain here in Sarasota County.  But to our north, in Manatee and Hillsborough Counties, there were extended rains.  Here is the same spot, one week later.

Fishing on the Myakka River, June 3, 2012.

A remarkable turn around in just seven days.  But the real astonishment was waiting on June 10, 2012.  After a very wet week in Sarasota County I checked the river gauge for Myakka River.  To my astonishment the River had risen from 0.07″ to 4.65′!!  And here is the result.

June 10, 2012. Myakka River level at 4.65′.

And at the Park Drive bridge there was no longer any chance to shoot the bridge from below.

Park Drive bridge, June 10, 2012.

The remarkable and ever-changing Myakka River State Park had once again amazed everyone with its ability to rejuvenate, seemingly over-night.

Death of a Husband … Death of an Issue

Robert C. Randall in November 1976 with his first supplies of legal marijuana from the federal government. He would receive federal marijuana for more than 25 years to treat his glaucoma.

Eleven years ago today my husband died.  Robert C. Randall was 53 years-old.

He was a man of some notoriety.  Often described as “the father of medical marijuana,” Robert accomplished a great deal in his 53 years.  In 1976 he became the first American since 1937 to receive marijuana under a doctor’s prescription and was the first to have “Uncle Sam” as his pharmacy.  Until Robert’s victory the only access to federal supplies of marijuana was through research programs and most of those programs were searching for the “harm” that marijuana would theoretically inflict upon the “drug abusers” of the 1970s.

But Robert proved — conclusively — that marijuana was THE drug that could help stave off the blindness which his glaucoma was certain to cause.  He used it in conjunction with other glaucoma medications and that is important to note.  He didn’t choose to use marijuana (although he didn’t mind using it).  It was only through the addition of marijuana to his regular medication regimen that his ocular pressures were lowered enough to prevent damage.  Take away any of the three to four medications that he used, including marijuana, and his ocular pressures went out of control.

All of this is well documented in books, films and on the internet.  Before starting this essay I did a Bing search this morning and was pleased to find even more entries than I had on previous occasions including a new, biographical entry on Wikipedia.  Three years before his death we authored a book, Marijuana Rx: The Patients’ Fight for Medicinal Pot which is a complete record of our twenty-plus years in the medical marijuana movement.  His legacy seems assured and rightly so.

And the medical marijuana movement goes on without him.  There were many soldiers willing to seize the banner as it fell and lead the charge.  The problem, it seems to me, is most are unsure of the direction the charge is supposed to go.  As Robert wrote,  “Once a morality play of intimate dimensions, medical marijuana has become a didactic drama driven by drug war motifs.”  He wrote those words in 1998 and they have become the reality of today’s world.  The “drama” of medical marijuana has gone on for so long, in so many different directions, that the result is a confused public that hears repeatedly about another “medical marijuana first” but has no idea what the fight is about.  “Medical marijuana?” they say, “That’s legal, right?”

Marijuana dispensaries are popping up in most states.  Their legality is clearly questionable since marijuana remains illegal under federal law.  Enforcement of this federal law is erratic and obviously prejudicial, dependent it seems of the direction of the political winds.  Many patients are actually receiving regular supplies of decent marijuana but the hard arm of the law could swoop down at any time and disrupt their health and wellbeing.  And there is the matter of “necessity.”  Almost two decades ago an activist proclaimed “all marijuana use is medical” and the early dispensaries in California were notoriously lax in their definitions of  “qualified” patients.  This has further diluted the argument making it harder for those with legitimate needs to get the support, both medical and pharmaceutical, that they need.

Don’t get me wrong.  There are many good people out there still working for rationality and compassion for those who medically need marijuana.  It is very touching to me that several dispensary operators have sought my permission to name their facilities after Robert, most recently in Lansing, Michigan.  These dispensaries are being operated in a remarkably responsible fashion and offer an oasis in a desert of arid federal policy that has not moved one iota in twenty years (since Bush 41 shut down the Compassionate IND program) let alone the past 35 years since Robert received his federal supplies.

There is still a medical marijuana movement but the medical marijuana issue, it seems to me, died with Robert.  He was able to focus the blame where it rightly belongs — at the federal government which has maliciously thwarted every reasonable attempt to rationally resolve a true public health problem.  Until such time as the immoral acts of the federal government are once again in the public spotlight it will be a difficult time for those seriously ill individuals who truly need marijuana medically.

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