Changing How Our World Sees Cannabis

Written by Mark Pedersen

Written by Mark Pedersen

July 3, 2022

I originally published this article in June 2022 in Greenway Magazine.

In November of 2019, I boarded a puddle-jumper at Lambert Airport in St. Louis and flew into rural Iowa. It was the only way that I could get there quickly enough. I knew my longtime friend and mentor, Federal legal patient, George McMahon, had been on hospice and was close to death.  I felt an urgency, knowing that if I didn’t travel to his home – and do so promptly – I would never see this Freedom Fighter ever again.  He would die there in silence, amid only his wife and daughter, and the world would have lost a precious piece of living Cannabis history without ever knowing of his passing.

George was born with a condition called Nail Patella Syndrome.  According to the National Library of Medicine, Nail Patella, is a genetic condition, characterized by abnormalities of the nails, knees, elbows, and pelvis. Individuals with this condition are also at risk of developing glaucoma at an early age. Some develop kidney disease, which can progress to kidney failure. In his later years, the effects of his disease on his kidneys and liver often left George bedridden.

Throughout his life, George was racked with chronic pain, frequent bone fractures and a susceptibility to virtually every childhood disease. As a young man, he didn’t let his disability slow him down, which, in turn, led to more broken bones and more time in the Emergency room.  By the age of 38, George had already suffered through multiple invasive surgeries, dying and being revived five times. Finally, it seemed his lifelong health condition was going to take his life. 
In the hospital yet again, his doctors told him that he wouldn’t be going home and should get his affairs in order.  Things looked particularly bleak for George. Then, a person visiting a dying patient down the hall stuck his head in George’s room. This stranger had brought a gift for his suffering friend, but he was too far gone to benefit from it.  So, he offered the gift that he had brought – a joint – to George.
George said, “What the Hell. The doctors are saying I won’t make it through the night. Why not?”

George told me, “It only took one cigarette. It was instantaneous for me. I was miserable, laying there with tubes coming out of me. Then, I smoked that joint.  15 minutes later, I was ordering food. I had barely eaten anything for over two weeks… But suddenly, I was hungry. I continued to get better (for days) even though I had only had that one joint.”

A week later, his doctors begrudgingly permitted him a “self-release” so that he could leave the hospital.  They were still obviously dumbfounded by his rapid recovery.
Though George still had Nail Patella Syndrome, he could now function. He could live.  So he set about educating everyone he knew regarding his experience with Cannabis. After years of letter writing and medical tests, George was eventually accepted into the Federal Government’s Marijuana Compassionate Investigational New Drug Program.

Compassionate IND Program tins

In order for a clinical sponsor to legally test a Schedule I drug or biological product on humans, they must first obtain authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Glaucoma patient, Robert Randall, following his winning a landmark 1976 case for marijuana possession and cultivation, successfully petitioned the FDA for legal access to Cannabis, thus making him the first participant in the Federal Government’s IND program on Cannabis.

Robert passed away in 2001.

When I first interviewed George, he was one of only four Americans still legally receiving government-grown Cannabis. George told me that those overseeing the program had shown little interested in evaluating the results of this special program, even though all of the participants had shown marked benefit from consuming the legally grown Mississippi Cannabis. No matter how much they (the IND patients) nagged the government, their pleas fell on deaf ears.  It seemed like the Feds were just hoping that the patients would eventually die and be forgotten. 
So Patients Out of Time commissioned a series of intensive physical and mental tests on these special patients. The results of the “Chronic Cannabis Use Study”, or “Missoula Study”, as it came to be called, were presented at Patients Out of Time’s 2002 Cannabis Therapeutics Conference.

Our nation’s Cannabis reform history is rich with stories of valiant individuals like George who gave literally everything to bring awareness of Cannabis’ medical efficacy.  Like George and Robert, Elvy Musikka and Irv Rosenfeld, also Federal patients, never ceased to spread awareness regarding how Cannabis healed and sustained them – not because they had to, but because they felt compelled to help others experience the healing that they had found. They have often spoken at Cannabis Therapeutics Conferences through the years, bringing to light that which our government has sought so diligently to hide.  “Cannabis is medicine.”

It became obvious to us all early on that REAL Cannabis reform would only come through sound education. It was not enough to just preach to the choir. The other 75% of the country needed to learn the truth. This meant stepping beyond ourselves. And it truly meant bringing the science.  Healing our nation’s ills could not be achieved without first educating those who care for us, our nation’s healthcare professionals. Who better to teach our healers but the actual experts who are at the forefront of Cannabis research.  Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, the renowned researcher who isolated THC in 1964 and was directly involved in the research that identified the Endocannabinoid System, has on occasion been a faculty member for Patients Out of Time.

Though always open to the general public, Patients Out of Time’s conferences have sought to give healthcare professionals, our nation’s nurses and doctors, the latest Cannabis research that they so desperately need in order to give their patients safe, holistic alternatives to prescription drugs and invasive treatments.  Effective, safe, options can spell profound healing for patients that have not responded well to conventional therapies.

How differently would our nation’s Cannabis laws be if only we would have first laid a foundation of sound education – in Cannabis history, treatment, as well as patient response?  Certainly, informed Cannabis consumers treat their health conditions more effectively, so they purchase more. That benefits industry cultivators and dispensaries, but more importantly, smart consumers make more frugal purchases and shop with purpose, so THEIR benefit is more assured. Further, they share their knowledge with friends, family and coworkers, so the knowledgebase spreads.

Margaret and George McMahon, 2013

Education, real education is vitally important to Missouri’s Cannabis Industry… to grow, and, perhaps far more importantly, to grow in a healthy way.  If our goal is to see Cannabis appreciated by a far greater audience and stem the fears that have been engrained through nearly a hundred years of misinformation, there really is no other way.  …and the education must reach everyone.  
According to Forbes Magazine, over 50 million Americans have tried Cannabis. With proper education, most will be healthy, life-long consumers.

Since The First National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics debuted in 2000, Patients Out of Time has earned the reputation for providing top quality cannabis education for patients and healthcare professionals. The 2022 conference will be historic in that it marks the transfer of the conference series to the newly created Academy of Cannabis Education (ACE).  The 15th National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics will be held in Kansas City, Missouri from June 9 to June 11 at Unity Temple on the Plaza. This year’s focus will be on “The Endocannabinoid System and Beyond”.
Please visit our Patients Out of Time’s website for more details on this truly important event.

“Cannabis is nontoxic. Cannabis is food. Cannabis is the single most important medicine of the 21st century.”


National Library of Medicine,
Investigational New Drug Applications (INDs) for CBER-Regulated Products,
Activist Robert C. Randall Dies,
Forbes Magazine,
Federally Legal Cannabis: George McMahon 1of2 2009,, Federally Legal Cannabis: George McMahon 2of2 2009,

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