Chronic pain patient and physician advocate Siobhan Reynolds was killed in a plane crash over the holiday weekend. Reynolds was a tireless advocate against the government’s persecution and prosecution of doctors and patients being singled out because of their treatments for chronic pain. She founded and ran the Pain Relief Network until it was shut down by malicious federal prosecution last year.
CannaCentral readers may know Reynolds from her work defending doctors against federal prosecution for “over-prescription” of pain medications (particularly opoids). They may also know her for her criticism of the legalization movement for ignoring the issue of non-marijuana pain options in favor of promoting cannabis as a wonder drug (a legitimate complaint).
Siobhan wanted full legalization of everything. The same thing many of us in the legalization movement want – a complete end to the War on (some) Drugs. In 2009, she posited the question “What if Marijuana Were Only Available by Prescription?” and surmised that if it were included as a part of our pharmacopia, most marijuana advocates would instead be opposed to it as they are many prescription drugs. That simple point illustrates what is an apparent rift in the marijuana legalization community: the hatred of all things pharma, including those naturally-derived like opoids.
Yet Reynolds was not anti-marijuana. Far from it. She was merely a critic of how the marijuana legalization movement goes about its business. In another 2009 piece, Drug Control? No, Citizen Control, she said:
The marijuana activists have made a lot of progress toward marijuana legalization and overall, that is a positive development. What isn’t positive is that they have done so, at least in part, by covering up the crackdown on medical pain management that has been going on full tilt since 2001. Veterans, cancer patients, people who have been unfortunate in any number of ways (and I am talking here about millions of Americans) have been unable to get pain medications that are supposed to be legal, but which, in reality, are only “semi-legal” — drugs whose legality can be withdrawn by law enforcement whenever the DEA decides that this or that doctor isn’t controlling his patients sufficiently.
This one paragraph summarizes Siobhan Reynolds’ entire crusade. She was not only attempting to advocate for chronic pain sufferers and the doctors who are persecuted for attempting to help them, she was working towards total abolition of the Controlled Substances Act itself. In other words: full legalization of everything.
That, in my mind, is a highly laudable goal and one that any marijuana advocate should be able to understand and get behind. The removal of the CSA and all of its ramifications would completely change the landscape of our country in terms of how law enforcement operates, how medical treatments are performed, and how illicit drugs are dealt with. Most hard drugs would quickly disappear in a newly-broken market of trafficking. Nearly all synthetic illicit drugs would die out in favor of cheaper, naturally-derived options. Best of all, the destruction of the Constitution and our American way of life and view of personal liberty and rights would end.
This, understandably, caused great alarm in the drug warrior culture. Not only was Siobhan advocating a total end to the Drug War, but she was winning court cases that were furthering that goal. This, obviously, made her dangerous to the War on (some) Drugs establishment. So the prosecution (entirely in secret, of course) began.
Reynolds fought it and took the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. She ultimately lost and saw her non-profit destroyed and her personal finances put into deep peril. This did little to slow her down. She began work to put together another non-profit and continue her crusade to stop the senseless prosecution of doctors and patients who merely want to treat chronic pain.
Those who fight the under-treatment of pain and those who are against the War on Drugs have lost a powerful front-line warrior and ally. Siobhan Reynolds’ death should remind all of us that the war goes on and that one person, if they’re single-minded enough and tenacious enough, can change public opinion dramatically.