November 05, 2017 | SimoneFischer
Jeremy is rolling through life’s punches as a vocal patient and medical Cannabis advocate. Photo by Daniel Berman.
Jeremy John Robbins is a soul force. In 2013, Robbins was my expert consult for an article about the need for ADA accessible medical dispensaries once HB 3460 passed. During that time, Robbins was a beacon of knowledge and helped guide ADA standards for dispensaries on disability.
On top of his active community role, he is a champion of inspiring people with spinal cord injuries to grow their own medicine.
Robbins never let his disability prevent his love of gardening, or accessing the healing attributes Cannabis provides.
I was always amazed by the life Robbins lives, but I never fully knew his incredible backstory.
On Oct. 3, 1999, a freak bicycle accident left Robbins paralyzed from the sternum down, and completely altered his life. The accident resulted in pinching his spine at multiple vertebrae and fully shattering his C6 vertebrae. Robbins was diagnosed as a quadriplegic.
He was quickly ushered into emergency surgery that resulted in a spinal fusion. The surgery put Robbins in the intensive care for 10 days, but the neuropathy became woven into the fabric of his everyday life.
“I broke my neck on a bicycle, with my dog, two blocks from my house on a Sunday night,” he said.
“I experience uncontrolled muscle spasms and a lot of chronic pain as a result of it. I didn’t sever my spinal cord, I only pinched it, so I have all these weird feelings and neuropathy. With all of that combined, I was taking 45 pills a day… and that was no way to live.”
Post-surgery life proved to be mentally and physically brutal. Coming to terms with Robbins’ new limited mobility was no easy feat. He wanted a better quality of life for himself and finally spoke with his doctor about his Cannabis use.
“I said I wanted to do it legal, and he was very supportive of my choice in 2001. He signed my documents, but I never submitted my paperwork that year because I was so nervous. But in 2002, he signed it again. I turned it in that time around and I’ve been growing ever since,” Robbins said, reaching for his wallet to show me 15 years’ worth of medical cards.
Robbins became a caregiver and grower for others in the chair community. During Robbins’ time completing his Master’s degree from Portland State University, he helped a fellow student with brain cancer to seek Cannabis until he eventually passed.
Cannabis helps bring the disabled community closer together, Robbins said.
“The focus is on growing something living. So often in the disability community, we focus on what we have lost. You have to radically change that thought process into how can I cultivate something with the fullest amount of life. Growing changes people’s attitudes. I know a lot of folks in chairs that grow and it’s what keeps them alive.”
obbins is a champion for the benefits of consuming Cannabis andgrowing the plant. He said that this kind of horticulture therapy gives the chair community and disabled community a newfound purpose.
The constant rule changes and additional costs of affording an OMMP garden is difficult for an already marginalized community. Many people with disabilities are on low or fixed incomes, with little to no wiggle room financially. Additional fees and rules are pushing many of the original medical growers with disability out of the program.
“All of my pharmaceutical prescriptions are covered by my health insurance, but if the medical program dissolves without securing protections for OMMP patients with affordable access to Cannabis, it’s really expensive to use as an option.”
The steady erasure of the OMMP program has proven problematic since Measure 91 passed.
“We know [Cannabis] works and doesn’t have side effects, so I simply ask why my insurance won’t cover Cannabis? I am on the Oregon Health Plan (OHP) and I have been a medical Cannabis patient for over fifteen years, but my health plan won’t cover it. No one can answer that question for me.”
I asked Robbins what Cannabis products can help people dealing with severe spinal cord injuries.
“Dealing with a major spinal cord injury requires a multipronged approach because the healing is just as mental as it is physical. When it comes to dealing with your headspace, I recommend finding Cannabis products high in the terpene Humulene. It’s the only thing that helps my mind slow down and reset. Humulene is present in hops, but is also found in Cannabis. I suggest using strains high in Humulene. So far, the Moe G OG strain from California has had the most Humulene percentages I have found, strain-wise,” Robbins said.
“When treating chronic pain and neuropathy, Full Extract Cannabis Oil (FECO) has made the biggest difference. I usually take it in capsules either raw or infused with coconut oil. I find that 2:1 oil works the best for pain. The ratio of THC to CBD helps manage inflammation and spasms and keeps the pain at bay. Not to mention a better quality of life as well.”
For those with limited mobility, Robbins recommended the Oregon’s Finest Convention Center Dispensary in Portland and believes that Chalice has been extremely committed to accessibility at each shop location, and said the Nectar in Gresham off Burnside Road is another excellent location for those seeking ADA accessibility.
Robbins’ work on pioneering accessibility for Cannabis retail and cultivation practices is vital to the growth of the industry as we continue to move forward. Robbins empowers those around him by showing those with spinal cord injuries that healing is possible. Farming Cannabis is hard, physical work but Robbins said cultivating Cannabis has given him a newfound appreciation for nurturing life.