Summer 2001: Steele Smith – husband, entrepreneur and owner of an Orange County marketing company for 14 years – suddenly doubles over with excruciating pain and finds himself in an emergency room. It’s his first of several such visits over the next four months. Each time, emergency room doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong, so they prescribe him pain meds. Steele loses 40 pounds. Finally, a rare-diseases doctor orders an invasive scope that finds 11 ulcers in Steele’s duodenum – between the stomach and upper intestines.
The disease is called Zollinger-Ellison (Z-E) – it’s so rare that the doctor, who’d practiced for over 50 years – shakes Mr. Smith’s hand and says he’s the doctor’s first patient ever to have the condition.
Steele is prescribed high levels of the newest and strongest acid-reducer known as Protonix. Due to the gut-wrenching pain, the doctor further prescribes high doses of morphine and sends him to a ‘pain’ doctor for a follow-up morphine regimen.
Mid-2004: Steele and his wife, Theresa, begin to realize that Steele has become terribly addicted to morphine. Following research on the internet and many phone calls, the couple decides to rapid-detox Steele, a procedure that nearly kills him. He spends several days in ICU, while most patients walk out of the hospital after a day or two – not in ICU. Yet he remained addicted very much against his will.
The Smiths went on to search the Internet and discovered a new detoxification drug known as Suboxone. With the help of a certified physician, Steele begins to use Suboxone and over several weeks of this specialized drug therapy became drug-free.
Steele was still experiencing pain and nausea and, therefore, could not function at full capacity – nor could he eat. About his time, the couple begin to gather information about Proposition 215, Senate Bill 420 and Health & Safety Code 11362.5 – the state’s Medical Marijuana Program. Steele was given a medical-cannabis recommendation and then obtained his medicine from one of the many L.A. dispensaries. This was a second miracle drug for Steele: Medical marijuana took away his pain and nausea, enabled him to eat and to become healthy once again.
No dispensaries existed in Orange County at this time, so over the next few months and several visits to L.A. dispensaries, Steele and Theresa decide to open a small collective, California Compassionate Caregivers (C3), to assist patients. They open their home to local medical- cannabis patients and begin to grow cannabis for safe access. The next few months pass in a whirlwind as, over the next few months, OC patients seeking safe access find C3 — the patient base reaches over 1,000 by 2006.
Also at this time, officers with the Placentia Police Department stumbled upon Steele and Theresa’s apartment and seized 18 plants, patient records, 4 pounds of medical marijuana, a small amount of concentrate and $1,000 in cash — no charges were filed at that time. Steele tried to contact the Placentia officers on several occasions regarding C3’s seized property, however they refused to return anything…
Nov. 1, 2007: At approximately 6 a.m., federal agents raided the Smiths’ two homes using paramilitary-style tactics – several officers wearing masks and dressed from head to toe in black, broke down the front door and held the couple (who moments earlier, were asleep in their bed) at gunpoint.
A fire extinguisher was sprayed at their two dogs – one dog died four days later. The officers then begin to destroy the home while they search for guns, drugs or anything else that could incriminate the Smiths. The couples’ home was completely ransacked and the front door broken down left wide open for any and all of the public to take furniture and belongings at will. At the same time, the police go to C3’s medical dispensary located a few miles away and proceed to confiscate 2 pounds of medical marijuana and a small amount of concentrate – again, leaving this door open to the public, to take anything left.
Steele, Theresa and two other defendants, from the second grow-house; Alex Valentine, a 21 year old patient with Elephant-man’s syndrome (neurofibromatosis) and thirty surgeries by his twentieth birthday, and Dennis La Londe, a friend of a friend and homeless man that was given a bed only three weeks prior, would be incarcerated and spend most of the next year in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles – a maximum security, level-five Federal prison. The four defendants were charged with conspiracy to manufacture or grow medical marijuana and are facing ten years each in a Federal Penitentiary for said “crime.”
Theresa is released after 60 days on $200,000 bond – to her dying mother’s home with two signatures, while all three of the other defendants languished in federal prison for nearly a year. After 10 months, Steele was finally released back to his wife, an electronic ankle bracelet attached to him for the next year. All four defendants currently report to federal pretrial services officers regularly until trial.
April 2010: The Honorable Cormac J. Carney, who presides over this case, rules that the medical marijuana issue will be heard as testimony – the first time in a federal court in U.S. history. The case has been continued over a dozen times.
John Steel III was locked up for ten months from 11-1-07 through 9-30-08.
In exchange for his wife & two other innocent co-defendants to be dismissed, he took a 3 year probation deal on 11-20-12.
Since the filming of this piece on 12/12, the kid, Zack passed away… & Greg, the older gentleman with multiple myeloma and MS died yesterday.
So, with this confluence of coincidences, on the trail of my step-uncle’s interview last night, I felt strongly that running this clip, on this morning was the right thing to do.
Idrasil – Medical Cannabis Pill
Provided by C3 Patients Association