Spc. Richelle Golden, of the Oregon Army National Guard, suffers from the incredibly painful auto-immune diseases rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren’s syndrome. When she became unable to work, her doctor prescribed chemotherapy, a group of drugs that is used as a last resort in painful auto-immune diseases. Unfortunately, this is also a group of drugs that is known for its powerful and unpleasant side effects, which can include severe nausea. Neither are chemotherapy drugs pain killers, they are disease modifying agents (DMARDs) and are given in the hope they will stop the progression of arthritic conditions.
Golden suffered so badly from these side effects, vomiting and needing increasing amounts of pain killing drugs, her physician suggested she use medical marijuana for these conditions. She was also transferred to the Madigan Army Medical Center in Washington, where she expected to wait the few weeks it would take for her medical retirement to go through. By this stage Golden was wheelchair bound.
On admission to the medical center, Golden produced her Oregon medical marijuana card and reported her use of the drug for pain and nausea relief. She was told by retired Colonel Ray Meyer that her use of marijuana for medical purposes was just fine because return to duty wasn’t on the agenda – in fact, it would be impossible for that to happen given Golden’s medical problems. Meyer was so convinced of the truth of his statement that he is actually Golden’s official caregiver and has been supplying her medication.
All this happened back in February, when she was once again transferred, this time to the Warrior Transition Battalion at Lewis McChord to receive her official discharge.
It is now June and Golden still has not returned home, in fact, she is still at Lewis McChord where, rather than awaiting her discharge, she is awaiting court martial. She has been caught between the opposing medical marijuana regulations of Oregon, her home state, and the army.
Meyer, who has declared in writing to the Oregon Guard that Ms Golden should be returned home; he wrote, “They have flagged her as a ‘Drug Addict.’” This, despite the fact that, “It was a legal prescription, by God, and she thought she was out of service.”
Colonel Jerry Penner emailed Meyer yesterday to say:
“Spc. Golden is receiving optimum coordinated medical care.
Her assignment … based on her complex medical issues is most appropriate. … Unfortunately, Spc. Golden is a high-risk soldier for medical reasons who requires close supervision. Her supervisors must ensure her welfare and compliance with her care plan in accordance with Army regulations.”
As for Richelle Golden herself, she is more worried about the effect of all this on her husband, who is a warrant officer with the Oregon Guard. Many of Tom Golden’s relatives also serve in the armed forces. The last word must go to Ms Golden, who, writing last Friday, said, “I am in so much pain, I can hardly stand it anymore.”