Larry Sweet

Featured — By on June 10, 2010 at 1:31 pm

By: Eugene Davidovich

Larry Sweet’s career as a county CPS worker provided him with the ability to navigate the bureaucracy of county government – a skill which was very useful in his role as a Medical Marijuana Task Force member.

As a younger man, Larry made his first ‘pilgrimage’ to California in 1968, staying a short time as part of the 60’s peace movement until the realities of life and the desire to finish his education called him home to Minnesota.

Fate, however, determined that he could not stay away from the Golden State and in 1986 Larry came back and settled in Modesto, taking up a job as a clinical supervisor for a drug treatment program.

Originally from Minneapolis, Larry received his Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Social Work from the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin, respectively. While working as a social worker, Larry also completed a number of post graduate studies.

Throughout his years with the County, his career took off. He went from managing cases and individual families to overseeing other public servants in a leadership position as an administrator. Towards the end of his career, Larry was involved as a program specialist in implementing a number of countywide initiatives including creating a program that helped significantly reduce the intake procedures at A.B. and Jessie Polinsky Children’s Center, making it easier to enter children into the system.

Then in 2007 at the age of 60, Larry’s health took a turn for the worse and he had to retire from the County of San Diego. Larry told NUG Magazine that after living with years of pain, towards the end his illness had gotten so bad that he couldn’t keep food down. The pain and nausea caused by his neuropathy and other ailments prevented him from doing daily activities.

Larry suffers from post herpetic neuropathy, diabetes, hepatitis C, depression, anxiety and insomnia. The physical symptoms he experiences on a day to day basis include chronic fatigue, chronic pain and nausea. Some of the pharmaceutical drugs he is still taking and has taken for years include opiates, anti-depressants, sleeping aids, anti-anxiety and diabetes medication.
“I ended up retiring at 60 mainly because of the neuropathy; it was too painful to continue working,” Larry explained.

The first time he tried cannabis was in the 60’s while in California. During our interview, Larry recalled it helped with his anxiety and depression, “it leveled me out”  he said. After trying it in his youth, he forgot about the plant.

Thirty years later while still working for the County, and nine months into his hepatitis C treatment medication, his wife and daughter were both in fear of Larry losing his life. The medicine he was taking had pretty much incapacitated him.

While at an appointment with his physician, Larry suggested to his doctor that cannabis might ease the pain and nausea caused by the medication. The doctor, who was aware of the benefits of cannabis, without hesitation wrote up a recommendation for Larry to start a regimen of 7g of medical cannabis per day for three months while he was being treated. Larry found that cannabis eased his pain and suffering, allowing him to actually get out of bed and be active while going through the treatment.

Once his treatment was completed, Larry stopped using cannabis and returned back to work for a few more years. In 2007 when the neuropathy as well as his other problems caught up with him and forced him to retire, Larry went back to his doctor and asked if he thought cannabis would help. His doctor agreed that it would and recommended a less rigorous, long-term regimen of medical cannabis.

Larry’s involvement with the medical marijuana community began, as with many active members of Americans for Safe Access, when he tried to locate a facility where he could obtain the medicine and found that he could not. The District Attorney and law enforcement in San Diego have created an environment of fear through raids and prosecutions on patients and providers.

In 2009 when the San Diego City Council was forming the Medical Marijuana Task Force, Larry decided to throw his hat in the mix. He told NUG Magazine, “I submitted my name to all the Council members, three asked for my resume, and one wanted to interview me.”

Since being nominated to the San Diego Medical Marijuana Task Force, Larry has been instrumental in fighting for fair and sensible regulations for medical cannabis patients in San Diego.

Now that the work of the Task Force has been completed and their recommendations submitted to the City Council, I asked Larry what he thought about the process. “Overall it was a good experience,” he said, “but a lot of us on the Task Force felt disappointed towards the end when the San Diego District Attorney and Code Enforcement began to undermine the progress we were making when they started going around and trying to close places.  We were acting in good faith here.”

I went on to ask Larry during the interview what he thought about the recent raids on collectives and whether this had anything to do with the efforts to regulate them. He explained that “raids and regulations are separate issues. Regulations are moved forward by forward-minded people in the Council and the community. Ms. Dumanis and the Mayor have dug their heels in every step of the way. Raids don’t have much to do with regulations.”

Larry continued, “The raids are atrocious. They should have at least had a moratorium of some kind on raids and arrests, so that unless there was something very serious, legitimate places would be left alone. The raids need to stop. They need to stop now. Let’s get the law clear, and then start taking a look at whether there needs to be a police effort made.”

I asked Larry when he thought patients and providers would have clarity. He explained, “By the end of the summer we should have city and county regulations for San Diego. Once the City of San Diego puts the regulations on the table, I think the Mayor will have to step up and sign the new ordinance or show his true colors and align with Ms. Dumanis while they decide who they are going to bust next. The Mayor is being political, not saying anything about the issue. I think that is a coward’s way out, waiting till everyone fights it out then determining which side he can survive with.”

I then asked Larry what he would tell someone wanting to open a collective or cooperative in San Diego. He said “Be careful, follow the Attorney General’s Guidelines (A.G. Guidelines). At the moment there are no regulations to govern any cooperative or collective in the county or the city, so if you open make sure you follow the A.G. Guidelines precisely and pay attention to any and all new ones coming out. Once regulations come in force, the county and the city will probably give you time to come into compliance.”

Larry went on, “You should also be aware that if you take this step, then you are running into the wall of Dumanis, Sanders, and the code enforcement people. They don’t want people opening up. It’s a fight people will not see, with arrest and raids. I believe the new tactic will be; people will open, Dumanis and the powers that be will come by and try to close them down immediately, or they will leave them alone. If they are left alone and survive, then they have a good chance of somehow being grandfathered in for the next two or three years.”

I asked Larry what he thought about the Tax & Regulate 2010 legalization initiative. He explained that out of the four initiatives that started the race, he liked this one the least. He said, “I will vote for it anyway. It is simply untenable that it remains a schedule one narcotic. People have to sooner or later come to grips that it is harmless and quite beneficial.
“If the initiative passes, I believe it will help medical patients in terms of removing some pressure on medical marijuana establishments. Once the DEA and the state have to deal with legal use, I don’t think they will have time to go after patients unless there is some egregious abuse going on.”

Towards the end of the interview with Larry, I asked him if there was anything else he wanted to share with NUG Magazine readers. Larry, after taking a moment to think about it said, “People need to be safe and be kind to one another, we need to continue to get along, to cooperate, and to finish this project we all started.”

Tags: Activism, Bonnie Dumanis, cannabis, Larry Sweet, Magazine, marijuana, Patient, Patients, San Diego

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