Aug 15 2013

Getting the Bum’s Rush from County Clinic


The Trap – that black pole-like thing is the butt disposal

This is to let you know why I will not be seeking healthcare from Emeline Clinic (Santa Cruz County Health, California) in the future. I do not know how or where or if I will get health care, and I have spent several anguished months now tormented by this situation, but your smoking prohibitions have created an atmosphere too toxic and hostile for me to tolerate.

You have made it abundantly clear that I’m not welcome.

I’d like you to keep a couple of things in mind while reading this:

  1. As a disabled person I am entitled to reasonable accommodation for my disability, and being made to stand in the rain, in the middle of the parking lot, to use my medicine is not ‘reasonable accommodation’.(And never mind that it takes 3 hands to light a cigarette or joint and hold an umbrella.)

    Reasonable accommodation is not prohibiting smoking every place that is protected from the sun, the wind, and the rain; and/or has a place to sit down, and/or is within sight of the waiting room.

    I’m talking medical marijuana here, which I use for a psychiatric condition, for which condition the federal government has declared me 100% disabled. And I need to medicate every 3-4 hours, or when stressed. And the only transportation I have is the bus, so the minimum trip to the clinic and back is 3 hours, and generally it takes 6 hours.

  2. Your smoking prohibitions are nothing but prejudice, intolerance, and discrimination against some 20% of the population. Regarding tobacco smoke, you don’t have a scientific leg to stand upon; certainly not second-hand smoke, and certainly not outdoors. (A recent L.A. Times article claims 75% of the homeless smoke, so it would be easy to make the argument you’re discriminating against the homeless. Meanwhile, nobody asks how many are homeless because of smoking prohibitions and discrimination in housing and employment.)As for cannabis, the 2005 Tashkin Study at UCLA, which was designed to be the definitive study to prove smoking cannabis caused cancer, ended up giving evidence that cannabis smokers are less likely to get cancer than non-smokers. (As health care ‘professionals’ you should be acquainted with this study, it’s not new news.) Recent studies are showing that cannabis lowers blood-pressure and reduces the risk of heart-attack.
  3. Nothing creates demand like prohibition. That’s Basic Human Nature 101 and if you have to be told that you ain’t got no business in health care.

Now, the reason I’m writing this is because I have been harassed, attacked, screamed at, bullied, humiliated, and now stalked at your clinic by a person I shall call Jonathan. And he did this to me a month after I suffered a heart attack. He is the person who was seen by Dr. Kathleen Loughlin immediately before she saw me on Thursday, June 13, 2013.

The first time Jonathan attacked me was some months ago.  It was before you expanded your smoking prohibition and took out the bench and ashtray behind the back entrance and put those new “Negroes not allowed within 50 feet” signs everywhere. (Sign, sign, everywhere a sign, telling me I’m a piece of crap.)

It was raining and I was standing in front, at the curb, just under the awning, at the edge, smoking a cigarette. I was standing just outside your no-smoking zone.

Jeremy Irons debates smoking with Steven Sackur and wins

A big white SUV pulled up and stopped so that the exhaust was blasting directly in my face. There was not a single other car at the entrance. They did not have to park in front of me, the only reason they did it was to annoy me. They must have sat there for 5 minutes blowing their exhaust in my face, and then Jonathan jumped out and started screaming at me. The first thing he screamed was something about ‘sorry for blowing the exhaust in your face’, and then he proceeded to scream at me for smoking at a medical facility and blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.  On and on and on.

I was too shocked and stunned to say or do anything. And then he was gone.

I complained to Dr. Loughlin about it, but evidently neither she nor anyone else thought it was important. I think maybe that might have been about a year ago, about the time I was assaulted at my building – someone slugged me, and then kicked me in the side after knocking me down – and I didn’t go to the hospital because the police told me I could not use my medicine there, standing in front of the building where I live, and that I could not have it at the hospital.  As it began to dawn on me what had happened, and I began to escalate, I was told I could not use my medicine.  I’ll attach an article I wrote about that.

Anyway, on June 13th 2013 Jonathan was scheduled before me with Loughlin. I think it was after about 3 hours wait I stepped outside, next to the recently installed butt disposal.  (There used to be a bench outside the back door, and an ashtray. But they took out the bench, and the ashtray … reminds me of how they did the blacks in Alabama in 1967 … but I digress.)

By-the-way, I submitted a brief complaint on July 17th, 2013 describing this incident, and reading it over I see I omitted to mention that Jonathan was sitting inside the back waiting area when he had someone call security on me for standing outside, next to the cigarette butt-disposal, smoking a cigarette.  His behavior had been extremely annoying as he stuck his foot in the open door and kicked it, as it was closing, every time someone went in or out. He did this for several hours, very annoying, kicking the door, so I’m sure a number of people noticed it.

There were two other people waiting to see Loughlin, a short thin middle-aged woman and a stout older black man with a cane. When I finished having my vitals taken they were standing in the parking lot smoking, and Jonathan was sitting on the ground next to the cigarette butt disposal, eating a sandwich.

The distance from Jonathan at the butt-disposal to where the two of them were standing smoking was less than the distance from the butt-disposal to where Jonathan was sitting inside, next to the door, so he could kick it open every time someone went in or out.   Never mind that if he really had a problem with the smoke, what was he doing sitting next to a butt disposal … let’s talk about how he’s not bothered being closer to two smokers outdoors, but he is bothered by one smoker who’s further away from him and he’s indoors and they’re outdoors.

After about 3 hours, after the white woman and black man with the cane had been seen and only Jonathan and I were left in the waiting area inside, I stepped outside, next to the butt-disposal to have a cigarette, and no sooner had I lit it than the security showed up to tell me the 50 foot distance had been measured and it was out in the parking lot. So I decided to put my cigarette out and wait until Jonathan had been called and had left the area … which I hoped would be soon.

I suppose it was ten or fifteen minutes before Jonathan jumped up and started screaming at me, standing blocking the door to Dr. Loughlin’s office. He screamed something about I was being silly because he had called security on me for smoking and how dare I smoke at a medical facility and he didn’t care if I called security on him for screaming at me because I was smoking and blah blah blah.

I hadn’t said a word to him. After he started screaming at me I said, “You’re harassing me.” Which he completely ignored.  Frankly, I was too shocked and stunned to do much of anything for a bit.

Two people walked through while he stood there screaming at me, two women, one after the other, and they had all the appearance and manner of employees. I think the second one may have been a doctor that used to share a waiting room and staff with Dr. Loughlin. This second woman, encouraged him by saying, “It looks mutual to me.”  This was particularly intimidating and disturbing as I hadn’t said a word to him, so how could she say such a thing?

Anyway, though I told both of them he was harassing me not one of them called security or did anything to stop his assault on me.  And neither did Dr. Loughlin’s assistant, who certainly must have heard this through the door and who I presume called security to harass me for lighting up next to the butt-disposal at Jonathan’s behest.

So I fled the building, out the front.  I thought about trying to get someone to call security but first I needed a smoke, and there was this woman who was apparently willing to take Jonathan’s side against me if I did try to do anything. I had just said at least 4 times that he was harassing me, and directly and explicitly to two different people, and not one person called security or did a thing to stop it  … so I decided to just try to make sure we were never scheduled on the same day again.  And I told Dr. Loughlin never to schedule me the same day as him the first opportunity I had to speak to her about it, which was in his presence.

Now, on my last appointment, July 17th, he showed up. After Dr. Loughlin had specifically scheduled me so I would not be there on the same day as him.

I wasn’t sure it was him until afterwards because he had shaved his head, and he didn’t say a word in my presence. And the fact is I’ve never really bothered to get a good look at him. But he arrived on the same bus I did, he was tall and bony, and had a distinctive gangling disjointed way of moving. I noticed he didn’t check in with reception, but he did show up and sit down for an hour or so in Dr. Loughlin’s waiting area, though he was never seen by her and never came out of or went into the door of her area.

Donald Tashkin discusses 2005 UCLA study that proved
smoking marijuana does not cause cancer

I know I certainly wondered if it was him at the time, but I just didn’t want to believe anyone would do that, that this was happening to me. Nor, did I smoke anything in his sight, which was purely a coincidence.

There were two other patients of Dr. Loughlin there at the time, two “Tina”s, but whether they recognized him or would remember him, I can’t say.

Anyway, this is not an isolated incident, or series of events.

– I was homeless for 3 years because of smoking prohibitions – as a medical marijuana patient who needs to smoke every several hours, and particularly when stressed – I was denied both emergency and temporary housing by homeless services. And every where I found to medicate ‘discreetly’ the city made it illegal to smoke – I went to the top of the parking lot to medicate, and the city made it illegal to smoke in parking lots.

– Then it was the parks, and the beach. And after I ran for city council they made it illegal to smoke anywhere on the grounds of city hall, including the sidewalk. So they denied my participation in government as I cannot sit through those marathons of insanity without smoking a joint.  It was as if the city followed me around for years and every time I thought I’d found somewhere that I could sit down and smoke and be left alone, they made it illegal.

– And then started taking out benches, till now there is only one bench in town were it is not illegal to sit and smoke.

– When I first became housed at the Palomar 5 years ago, I went down to Abbott Square thinking I could have my coffee and morning joint there, only to be arrested and jailed – I didn’t have my recommendation with me because I had rushed out so the maids could clean – and the police refused to let me go upstairs and get it.  They said they couldn’t go up with me because it would jeopardize their safety. The fact is they knew I was a medical marijuana patient and had seen my recommendation several times.

It was the people who sling wine behind the museum that called the police on me; the gay couple that own Vino Santa Cruz; the people that pour booze on the street in front of children at the street fairs and markets downtown.

Shortly after that they made smoking illegal in Abbott Square.

– When I was homeless, Ryan Coonerty walked up to me and held a baby in my face just as I had sat down and lit a cigarette and inhaled – daring me to exhale, which I had to do eventually, of course. And then screamed to the press about homeless people blowing smoke in babies’ faces.

– I’ll also attach an article I wrote about the time I tried to put out a cigarette in an ashtray at City Hall and a woman standing next to the ash tray started screaming bloody murder not to come near her with a cigarette.

– Oh yes, there was the time when I was homeless I tried to be ‘discreet’ and went down to the riverbank – and before I could light a joint the police were there giving me a $140 ticket for being in a ‘closed area’.

– There was the time I was sitting on the wall next to the County Building smoking a cigarette during the WAMM fundraiser, and ‘maintenance’ just absolutely had to rake the pine needles at that exact spot, and then when I said something about it, they screamed “get lost you damn Hippie”.

– And the time I thought I’d take my coffee and sit on one of the ledges at the Galleria, next to Trader Joes, and have a cigarette. Only to have a security guard show up within seconds and tell me I had to move along.

– And so, after not going anywhere or doing anything for months and years, I decided to take my coffee down to the levee and have a cigarette, and before I’ve half smoked it the police are there telling me it’s now illegal to smoke on the levee.  Subsequently the city council has made it illegal to cuss at city workers. Imagine that.

I could go on and on and on, for over a decade now, constant unrelenting bullying, abuse, ostracism, humiliation, isolation, discrimination, alienation. And “sign, sign, everywhere a sign…”, telling me I’m a piece of crap, courtesy of our health department.

So now I am being stalked by a psychotic crackpot over smoking a cigarette at my doctors office thanks to your smoking policy.

Congratulate yourselves. Your smoking with-hunt has now come between me and my doctor, you have successfully intervened in my medical care and seriously harmed my health and well-being.

I don’t go anywhere or do anything anymore thanks to your smoking witch-hunt – and that is what it is, a witch hunt. The fact is that it is your smoking policies – your witch hunt – that give crackpots like Jonathan the power to bully and terrorize people such as myself. 500 years ago he would be burning witches.

There is a coffee shop on the ground floor of my building with outdoor seating, and one across the street. As soon as I moved in they made the whole damn street non-smoking. I feel like crying every time I think about it, which is at least once a day, and generally more like once an hour. Nowhere for me to hang out and be comfortable and make friends and have a social life – thank you health department. The only good smoker is a dead smoker, and until then they should all sit home all day and night by themselves. That’s the message you send.

Your anti-smoker crusade has made my life a living Hell for years and years, and now you have given me months of anguish and stress at a time when it could be fatal to me. You have created a society where it is perfectly acceptable for mean-spirited sadistic psychotic bullies such as Jonathan to evict 80-year-old World War II vets from their homes for smoking a cigarette – where the only subsidized housing available, that’s been built in the past decade, is anti-smoking – forcing the poor to choose between smoking and being homeless.

By the way, the day after my last visit to Emeline Clinic I woke up with a severe sore throat that lasted for a week.

While I’m at it, I realized while thinking about this (and I haven’t been able to think about much else since that incident in June) that the first time Jonathan attacked me I had intended to mention to Dr. Loughlin that I was having severe pains in my lower legs, which I now understand to be heart attack symptoms. But his assault completely blew it out of my mind.

And, while CA H&S 362.79 prohibits smoking cannabis wherever smoking is prohibited, that was passed back in 1996, when no one dreamed they would prohibit smoking outdoors.  And, that law is a bill passed by the legislature, and therefore is subordinate to Prop. 215, and can be struck as violating the spirit and letter of Prop. 215, just as the limits on quantity were declared illegal.  So when it comes to prohibiting the smoking of cannabis – the use of MEDICINE – the legal foundation for any prohibition of cannabis use is a house of cards.

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