Medicinal use: Pot educator wages war on war on drugs
Mary Lynn Mathre is a former nurse who wants patients to have access to a controversial medicine: pot.
From an early age, the Minnesota native was interested in practicing medicine. She enrolled in the Navy to finish her undergraduate degree in nursing and after being discharged, she pursued a graduate degree.
In the 1980s, as a medical experiment, the federal government began supplying a small number of people with medical cannabis for various problems, says Mathre. She witnessed the benefits to these patients and has been outraged ever since by Uncle Sam’s refusal to acknowledge marijuana as a legitimate form of medicine.
While in grad school, Mathre discovered a connection between cannabis and the body's endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for regulating bodily functions. She believes using cannabis as medicine can improve the system’s functioning.
“It literally governs everything you do,” Mathre says. “It helps you eat, sleep, relax, protect, and forget. On the molecular level, it does everything for us, it keeps us in balance.”
The Howardsville resident is the founder and president of Patients Out of Time, an “educational charity” aimed toward helping people in need of medical cannabis. Their main objective is to educate healthcare and political figures through their biennial conference series that brings together healthcare professionals to discuss breakthroughs in medicinal cannabis research. In addition to their conferences, the group promotes books and movies about how the cannabis plant is a safe and effective treatment for chronic pain, glaucoma, seizures, multiple sclerosis, and other illnesses and symptoms. They also rely on the endorsement of various medical groups across the country and abroad.
Virginia has one of the earliest— and most ineffectual— medical marijuana laws that dates back to the 1970s and applies to patients suffering from cancer or glaucoma, but Mathre says the legislation is essentially a "dead-law" due to the discontinuation of access to a legal medicinal cannabis farm formerly run (and eventually shut down) by the federal government in Mississippi.
Mathre, 60, is confident from her research that cannabis as medicine is more beneficial than harmful to all patients who need it. She's contributed to multiple books promoting the legalization of medicinal cannabis, as well as a few independently produced, award-winning short films.
“She’s very passionate about what she’s doing, very smart very intelligent, and compassionate for people,” says Marion Kyner, a close friend and former colleague of Mathre on the addictions consultation team at UVA Medical Center. “She really wants to target people who make a difference.”
Her next project is promoting the use of cannabis to help U.S. Army veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and she believes those stalling the legalization of medicinal cannabis are directly harming those vets.
“The war on drugs is more of a war on people, it always has been,” she says.