There is tremendous strength in getting back up after falling down. For Carola Perez, a trailblazer for the medical cannabis movement in Spain, such strength transpired into being a fighter and a founder.
It all started when Carola injured her back due to an accidental fall at the age of eleven. Ever since, she has transformed her pain into contagious strength.
After twelve different surgeries (including the removal of her Coxic bone), trying nineteen pharmaceutical medications and growing up with chronic pain for more than twenty years, Carola found a way to break free from constant suffering: medical cannabis. It was one of the first times her painful chains were unlocked as she experienced “relief never felt before.”
Yet the prohibition of a medicine – cannabis – imprisoned Carola’s body sentencing her to unbearable pain and suffering. The only temporary relief doctors prescribed were addictive narcotics. On three separate occasions, her most hopeful option to end her suffering was attempting to end her life.
“Cannabis saved my life. It’s like being in a tunnel and a window opens. Cannabis doesn’t work for everyone. But if it does work for you, it can change your life,” Carola confessed.
Once she discovered a light shining through the window, Carola started guiding others out of their tunnel of pain.
“I transformed an unfortunate accident and all the suffering it has caused into two initiatives – Dos Emociones [Two Emotions] and The Spanish Observatory of Medical Cannabis. They are now actively contributing towards improving the lives of many patients,” she explained.
Through Dos Emociones, Carola has changed the lives of more than 700 patients in need of medical cannabis, whilst simultaneously fighting to change the legality of cannabis in Spain.
Yet for many medical cannabis patients, the risk involved in obtaining their medicine is still far greater than any “side effect” of using cannabis.
Carola started to realize the risks of self-medicating when she had to purchase cannabis from the illicit market in order to make medicated infused milk. The contents of the products bought – quality, strain and potency – were a questionable unknown. Although safer spaces, social smoking clubs, were later established, a degree of uncertainty lingered.
“The clubs were more concerned about recreational users and the risk of the police. I was also nervous because the police were outside and I didn’t know if they might stop me when I left the club for doing something ‘illegal…’ But at least you know what you’re getting in a club,” Carola added.
From the streets to the social space, Carola still “wondered where other patients received information about what they were buying. Patients needed a place to learn about medical cannabis and people to help them with dosage, administration and strain.”
The time was ripe to rise up; the call to action was loud. As a brave and beautiful soul, Carola took on the challenge to help the humans of medicals cannabis.
“When I started this mission to help people, I didn’t know it would involve so many economic, political and social issues,” Carola expressed.
The government’s economic intention of profitability is convoluted with immoral values in regards to how “pain and suffering is a big market and business,” Carola shared. Rather than politicians upholding “their responsibility to take care of citizens and human rights,” she continued, “they take care of big companies – companies producing drugs and selling opium.”
There is a fundamental illness in the system that needs to be treated by prioritizing patients.
Following a recent agreement with the government of Madrid, some improvements have been made regarding reliability of medical products. “Samples of cannabis are taken to the lab and tested and analyzed for controls such as pesticides, quality and potency. The medical cannabis we recommend our patients is lab tested. It’s not bought on the streets or clubs for recreational use,” Carola emphasized.
Establishing this distinction between medicinal and recreational cannabis has created a divisional point of contention amongst cannabis users. “I am facing death threats from people from the recreational park. They don’t like medical being regulated; it’s paralysis for them…They think, in Spain, that if cannabis goes medically legal there is no way to legalize recreational. They see it like a fight,” Carola explained.
Such stigmatization and discrimination captures medical cannabis patients’ inherent innocence. People often look at Carola and claim, “you’re not ill, nor a patient!” She explained, “they don’t believe that we’re suffering. It’s only because they can’t see my pain…until I show them my scars.”
When public perception neglects that pain may not necessarily be visible to the naked eye, society inflicts further unnecessary pain.
Despite her internal pain, intensified by external pains, Carola said, “I can’t stop now because we’re going to have it regulated…it’s passion what moves me to do this.”
The necessary ingredients for regulatory change, according to Carola, include a team of patients with personal stories, researchers with concrete data and doctors with medical expertise.
She continues to fight the way that the Spanish legal system holds the accessibility of medicinal cannabis hostage. Her passion is personal as cannabis has completely changed her life.
Carola has embraced, and fully embodies, a characteristic trait of cannabis: being a change agent.
Follow her on twitter @carolaperez