On October 15th, I started an online fundraiser to help my friend Michelle whom was arrested by the DEA in September for her legally used, illegally obtained and transported medical marijuana. After her arrest, she was subject to one night in jail. A night in a cold, metallic cage is traumatic in its own right, but it’s especially terrible for a person who suffers from Rheumatoid arthritis, cervical spine disease, rotator cuff disease, torn biceps, and fibromyalgia. She was released on bail the next day into a circumstance of financial instability and fear.
I started the fundraiser because Michelle is not a criminal, no matter how reasonable it was for the DEA to believe otherwise. (And, by the way, what was not reasonable was the officers’ ignoble disregard for Michelle’s painful condition. Read the letter she wrote a week after the experience here.) I felt that she deserved more—and knew that she needed more—than what her means allowed and her mistake imposed. I don’t think any person really deserves bad things to happen to them, but that Michelle has dedicated her life to helping the children of Chicago makes the misfortune of her situation glaringly wrong. With her organization, Direct Effect Charities, she has helped thousands of kids to have what they need to learn, to be happy, and to be safe. That’s inspiring in its own right, but it is even more so in light of her many illnesses. It was the welfare of herself, her daughter, and Chicago’s underprivileged youth that inspired her to find a medicine that allows her to be productive and happy. Not drug dealing.
Hopefully, as Michelle’s legal struggle continues, the courts will agree with me and those of you who support her, holding the common sense that locking up a middle-aged single mother who smokes weed to overcome her pain and do great things is not in our society’s best interest. But I can’t do much but hope that her sentence is merely community service, so I chose to ask people on the internet for their money, so that in a time when Michelle is still sick, her daughter is still a kid, her husband is still passed, and her work for underprivileged Chicagoan youth is still unfinished, she has a little less to worry about.
Together, through the online fundraiser and The Blisters’ sold-out show at the Beat Kitchen on November 18th, we were able to raise a little more than $4,600 for Michelle and her daughter. We didn’t meet our goal of $7,500, and that’s because in the mess of other things, I dropped the promotional ball. While raising more would have been nice, I can’t let myself feel sorry; we did an awesome thing for Michelle and the almost-5k we were able to give her has been a gigantic relief even with her mounting legal fees. She and her daughter are so thankful.
Thank you guys for helping Michelle. I think that most people have a family member or a friend who could use help like the help we were able to give her, but most of the time, it’s not as simple or easy as clicking a PayPal button. I’m happy we were able to do something.
Here’s to you guys, and health. Let’s hope Michelle is able to continue doing what she loves to do, and that others like her—people that need a weird drug to help them to be healthy—don’t have to face what she did.
Michelle has gone through another twist of fate. This time, it’s one that almost certainly saved her life. Please click “Read More” to read a thank-you letter about her current situation. For more about her experience, see the fundraising page here. If you would still like to donate, go here.
Dear Spencer and Friends,
In an instant, my life changed forever on September 13, 2012. If I was not living it, I could never have imagined the devastation and loss that would ensue. It is beyond surreal to me.
As a result of my arrest for possession of medical cannabis, a series of events would lead me to a startling discovery. The apartment I have been living in for the past 3 years is infested with toxic mold. It is literally growing behind the living room walls. This is due to years of water leaks in the building; the plaster has all crumbled and has now been replaced by a giant nest of mold. The walls are cracking and bulging and it is literally busting out of the wall and into the living room window. It is also rapidly and visibly growing on our heating vents and is being transmitted into my apartment from the basement via our heating ducts as well. We have had extensive environmental testing performed and many dangerous and toxic molds are present.
Beyond my arthritis and cervical spine issues, I have been very sick for the past 3 years and have been to a myriad of specialists in an attempt to diagnose what is wrong with me. It has become neurological and I have seen specialist after specialist. An army of doctors could find no explanation for all that was happening to my body and we blamed medication side effects even though the symptoms were not atypical of them.
Until now, that is.
It was as if a giant, complex puzzle of 3 years has finally been solved; I have nearly every classic symptom of toxic mold poisoning, including very rare ones, such as fingerprints that have worn away. My skin has become so thin, that a simple band aid removed will pull it off. It has affected me severely as my immunity is already compromised due to my rheumatoid arthritis. It has also affected my daughter who suffers from what we thought were allergies and hay fever. Her frequent colds and bronchial issues since we have lived at that apartment are very likely from the air she breathed. Heating ducts leading into our apartment were found to have the presence of stachybotrys mold, among many others.
My doctor advised me to leave the apartment immediately. Due to my severe symptoms and the extensive environmental report, I was advised to leave ALL of my belongings behind. I was told I could take my clothing if it was double washed in hot water, but that was it. Everything I own is now saturated with toxic mold spores which, unbeknownst to us, have been making us sick for so long.
Since I could not go back to the apartment, a dear friend packed up all of our clothing and it awaits us at a local laundry. We spent several weeks homeless but were grateful to have friends who generously shared their homes with us. We rented a temporary semi-furnished apartment the day after Thanksgiving and we are seeking a permanent home. I’ve looked at a number of places and have been rejected numerous times when I tell them my story.
I have done my best to turn this tragedy into a learning experience for both myself and my daughter. While we have lost everything we own, we likely had too much anyway. Now that we are living in a sparsely furnished rental with only bare necessities, we realize how very little we require.
I have also realized how incredibly important friendships are and no amount of “stuff” can ever replace the value of one true friend. When life is the most difficult, you really learn who those friends are. In that department, I have to say, we have been very blessed. Our true friends have been there to help ease the pain we are suffering. It is what has held us together and gotten us through.
Spencer, your support has meant so much to us. We are so grateful to you and all who have supported your fundraising efforts on our behalf. It has helped to make this difficult time much easier. You have fed us, helped to pay important bills, to buy gas and everyday necessities. You even helped me to mail thousands of children’s Letters to Santa.
I am beyond grateful for all you have done for us and for the many people who have touched our lives as a result. Total strangers reached out in kindness and helped to soften what has been one of the most difficult times in our lives.
I can’t help but believe with everything in me that this has been a true miracle. If all had not happened as it did, I would have signed a 2 year lease, which could have been a death sentence, given the current state of my health as a result of my environment. As hard as it has been, I believe it was all meant to be. I desperately needed a warning and as tragic as it has all been, it was necessary as I may not have found out any other way.
I remain hopeful that the devastating effects to our health can be reversed. We continue to search for a permanent home and while the rejection thus far has been difficult, I have hopes that there is one more angel out there that will understand and be happy to rent us a clean, safe and comfortable place to live.
In the meantime, I will remain grateful to you and all the wonderful friends and strangers who have offered support, comfort and love. It is truly what has sustained us to this point.
During this time, I have continued with my charities programs and it has helped me a great deal. I believe when you are feeling sad, if you do something nice for another, it helps you to feel better. I managed to distribute almost 9000 Letters to Santa and this has meant so much to me. Knowing that all of those kids will get gifts as a result of my efforts is truly like medicine to me. I am so happy that I made the decision to continue my work as it also has sustained me.
The words thank you could never be enough, so I will continue to give back and pay it forward. I will keep you updated as my story unfolds and remain hopeful that everything works out as it was meant to be. This, I must believe.
I wish many blessings to all who have touched our lives. We are grateful beyond simple words; our hearts are full and it wouldn’t be fair to ask for more than that.
With much love and gratitude,