Although Doug can’t change the past, he’s doing great work now to mend cannabis’ distorted public perception after decades of drug war propaganda:
Imagine realizing that the very crime you condemned others for committing would one day save your life?
This was the haunting realization that Florida judge Dough Bench had when—after years of issuing guilty verdicts to people caught with marijuana—he ended up desperately using the plant to cure his debilitating health condition.
“I put 311 people in jail for marijuana offenses—and I was wrong,” said Doug in a public forum speech back in February, “I’ve been haunted for 30 years, wondering how many of those (people I put in jail) were using cannabis for medical reasons because our government suppressed that information for 70 years.”
The diagnosis was Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD.
Prognoses are grim for patients, often suffering slow and agonizing deaths.
But then an alluring possibility was discovered by his wife after just a few hours of internet research: cannabis oil.
“I hated marijuana,” said Doug, “I hated the use of marijuana and the violation of the law. But I had no choice, I had to break the law if I wanted to live.”
And indeed, that’s what happened: Doug’s COPD was cured by the cannabis oil.
“I’m now an advocate for medical marijuana…”
With his public talks, Doug hopes to educate people about the alternative health uses of cannabis while offering solutions for its legalization and accessibility in society.
For him, placing the curative powers of marijuana in the hands of the government—the same institution that so viciously condemned the drugs for decades—is a mistake.
Instead, he suggests a “horizontal integration” that increases ease of access without excessive dependence on special interests in bed with politicians.
“By the time you finally go (to the doctor to get medical cannabis),” says Doug, “you need it now, not 90 days from now…I’d be dead if I had to treat under this mandate of Florida law.”