Josh LaCroix was used to hard work, completing landscaping projects, and saving to eventually start his own computer repair business. In his spare time, he coached soccer, baseball, and basketball. He also raised two children with his wife.
Then in 2012, he nearly died. A massive amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) built up in his lungs, causing them to fail due to a condition called alpha1-antitrypsin deficiency, a lung and liver disease as a result of a genetic mutation that may cause shortness of breath, an increased risk of lung infections, complications that can include COPD, and cirrhosis.
For the past six years he’s been immobilized with failing lungs and liver problems, living off Social Security and disability payments. His wife, Mea, became his full-time caregiver while also raising their children, now ages 12 and 15.
LaCroix gets cannabis delivered once or twice a week to his home to help with pain, reduce inflammation and keep up his spirits. He wouldn’t be able to get cannabis without those deliveries. Neither he nor his wife, who can’t leave him alone in his condition, could have made it to a dispensary.
He’s one of the lucky ones.
In many communities around the US, getting cannabis delivered is difficult, if not impossible, due to local authorities prohibiting delivery. Cannabis is still a Schedule I controlled substance in the eyes of the federal government.
However, some potential good news for those wanting delivery in underserved California communities is wending its way through the Legislature in the form of a bill that would prohibit local governments from adopting or enforcing any ordinance that would prohibit a licensee from delivering cannabis within or outside of city or county limits.
SB 1302, authored by Democratic state Sen. Ricardo Lara recently passed the Senate Government and Finance Committee, and could be eventually headed to a floor vote.
The bill would allow licensed delivery services in California to navigate the state’s regulatory framework more easily by permitting them to service cities and counties that have banned dispensaries and other cannabis businesses.
“Delivery is very important for medical cannabis, but it it’s very important for legal cannabis as well,” said Heather Manus, a registered nurse and co-founder of the Cannabis Nurses Network.
Manus explained that dying hospice patients often don’t have the time to obtain a medical cannabis card, so their caregivers need to purchase it. These patients are often given a hospice home care kit when sent home from the hospital. The kits can include potent and potentially dangerous painkilling drugs, but they do not typically include cannabis.
“There is a demographic of patents that are not being represented,” Manus said.
Even in states where medical and recreational cannabis have been legal for a while, the issue of delivery is either cloudy, or outright illegal.
Marcie Cooper, a hospice nurse in Colorado, has been fighting to legalize cannabis delivery in her state, including testifying before the state General Assembly. A bill that would have created a pilot program allowing three Colorado cities to opt into marijuana delivery died in April. The bill was opposed by some local police departments and the Colorado State Patrol.
“Unfortunately, we cannot deliver cannabis because it still is a Schedule I drug,” said Cooper, who since 2008 has worked in the Denver metropolitan area with sick and dying patients in their homes.
While cannabis is widely available for purchasing, some Colorado counties don’t have dispensaries, leaving less mobile patients heavily reliant upon friends and family for assistance.
“So, when they send their families to go pick it up, then they may have an hour-and-a-half drive,” Cooper said.
Yet, patients can get drugs such as morphine or Dilaudid delivered to their homes.
“I’ve been in the house when they just knock on the door and hand the bag to whoever’s there and get them to sign their initials without asking for ID or anything,” she said.
Cooper has patients whose cannabis use helps with pain relief and reducing insomnia; those same patients were worse off on more potent medications.
“When we give morphine or Dilaudid for pain, we create lethargy, so the patients won’t eat, so we create constipation, so they refuse their medications because they’re constipated already, so the patient gets worse,” she said.
These pharmaceuticals may also knock people out, robbing them of precious hours with loved ones, she added.
“Cannabis can treat that pain, and they can actually stay awake and enjoy their family,” Cooper said.
LaCroix uses marijuana to reduce the number of drugs he takes. He has only been on just three medications, while others he’s heard of with his inherited condition are on several more medications.
Life has recently improved for the 43-year-old. He left his home and business in Maui, Hawaii, in 2014 to move to Palm Desert, California, to be as close as possible to University of California San Diego, where he was on the medical center’s waiting list for a double lung transplant.
Before and after the transplant, he avoided inhalants because of his lungs, but has used cannabis in edible and other forms, including Rick Simpson oil, to treat his kidney problems.
“Cannabis is what got me to my surgery,” LaCroix said. “I think, generally, it helped my feeling of well-being. I was bound to a wheelchair and I couldn’t walk more than 20 feet and I couldn’t even shower myself. It opened up my airways, I felt like.”
It also put him in a better mood.
“When you feel like that, it’s hard to feel happy,” he said