By Michael Bachara
Wisconsin medical marijuana patient and activist, Jacki Rickert, passed away on December 26 at the age of 66. Rickert, who suffered from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a connective-tissue disorder in which her joints become dislocated easily, was a determined Midwest activist who fought for her right to treat her condition with cannabis.
Rickert was an active swimmer, gymnast and horseback rider before being diagnosed with the syndrome at the age of 21, and discovered that cannabis could help her control the dislocations and keep her other medications down.
In 1990, through Dr. William Wright, Rickert’s physician, efforts to enroll Rickert in the Compassionate IND program (a program run by the federal government of the United States that was established in 1978 to allow a limited number of patients to use medical cannabis grown at the University of Mississippi), Rickert was approved for a federal prescription for therapeutic cannabis.
At one point, the Compassionate IND program had fifteen patients. 43 patients were approved for the program, however, 28 of the patients whose doctors completed the necessary paperwork never received any cannabis, including Rickert. In merciless fashion, President George H.W. Bush administration’s failed to honor their contract and never delivered Rickert’s medicine. Instead, cruelly, they urged Rickert to take Marinol, which gave her an allergic reaction.
In 1992, the highly controversial program ceased accepting new patients, after public health authorities concluded there was no scientific value to it.
Before Dr. Wright, died in 1993, Rickert said, “He went through every channel, he met every specification they asked for.”
In September 1997, Rickert led a number of patients, care providers and supporters on the Wisconsin Journey For Justice, a 210-mile wheelchair journey from Mondovi to Madison to kick off the introduction of medicinal marijuana legislation.
Rickert once said of the journey, “It was one of the biggest highlights of my life. I never realized there was so much support out there”.
Steve Wessing, a longtime friend and fellow participant in Journey for Justice, said of Rickert, “A passionate activist is one who is willing to endure great pain for the cause they believe in. Jackie Rickert was the most passionate activist I have ever known. In 1998 High Times named us ‘Freedom Fighters of the month’ after a 200 mile medical cannabis journey for justice. Jackie led the way in her wheelchair for much of the journey.”
“She spoke at hundreds of events and to hundreds of legislators, often traveling thousands of miles at her own expense. She was much more than a hero to the medical cannabis movement. She was a shining example. She was a tireless educator who never gave up. She was a true champion,” Wessing added.
For several years, Wisconsin cannabis advocates have worked on the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act (JRMMA), a bill which would allow the Wisconsin Legislature to enact legislation allowing residents with debilitating medical conditions to acquire and possess marijuana for medical purposes if supported by their physician.
On November 16, 2009, JRMMA was introduced with press conference. At the press conference, Jacki said, “Everyone knows someone who would benefit if the law were changed, a mother a father, a sister, a brother, someone. We’re all in this together, every single one of us, whether we thought this was our cause or not our cause, it’s all of ours cause.”
Paul Stanford, who helped Rickert obtain an Oregon medical marijuana card in 2010, said of Rickert, “In the face of much adversity, she always worked advocating for the greater good. Several brave Wisconsin legislators introduced The Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act, but it hasn’t passed yet. Her organization, Is My Medicine Legal Yet?, will continue the work.”
A GoFundMe account has been created to help pay for a memorial and funeral expenses.