by Conor Bohannon
Chris Moe, “Uncle Grumpy,” is a widely known cannabis advocate in Oklahoma. Due to his very busy schedule, he is not always easy to pin down for an interview.
Nevertheless, in spite of his many commitments, Uncle Grumpy graciously agreed to meet at Max’s Garage, a decent sized retro-industrial style bar in Downtown Muskogee, OK. I met him on a Saturday afternoon in early November.
Uncle Grumpy walked in right on time and we introduced ourselves. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that, in spite of the label he goes by, he is much more friendly and thoughtful than his name might otherwise imply.
We have seen your videos online and know that you are an ardent advocate for cannabis. We would really like to get to know you more as an individual, that is, what is your background and what was it that got you interested in advocating cannabis usage?
Yeah, I am not used to talking about me. I am used to listening to people like you tell me your story so…that is kind of what I do.
(Notices camera) I didn’t know we had a camera going here!
It’s all good, I’m used to cameras, I use them all the time. They are no big deal. You see, I used to be afraid to talk to more than two people at a time. I was a restaurant manager for a while and my worst fear was the weekly employee meeting because I would have to speak to all of the employees at the same time. There were about 55 of them and that was just too many. I used to get my assistant manager to open the meetings so that I would only have to talk to one or two people at a time. It was only after I got active talking about cannabis that I was able to get over that. It was pretty darn scary at first. I think the last time I was scared, to the point of literally shaking was when I spoke to the joint session in Oklahoma City, that first meeting after SQ788 passed.
The thing is, I don’t write down notes. I’m dyslexic and can’t read easily. If you were to hand me a stack of notes in a situation like that and expect me to read them, I would end up looking like an idiot.
What I do is think about what I’m going to say and try to be ready. I’ve tried to practice but it doesn’t work.
So, as a rule, you usually speak off the cuff?
Yes, I pray on the way to these things and ask God to give me the right words and that’s it. I just go and don’t really know in advance what I’m going to say. I try to keep it real when I talk about cannabis. When trying to look out for people, the right words are always there. I never seem to be short of something to say!
I interrupted you earlier. What was it we were talking about before?
We were talking about your background and how you got interested in cannabis as medicine.
Well, to get back to it, I started smoking way too young; the same with drinking.
It was a way to party, a way to get away from the parents. I moved out when I was 15 so things were somewhat different for me than for most. Looking back, whenever my life was a complete wreck, it was involved with too much drinking or prescription drugs.
The only periods of time when my life was completely normal, or stable, was when I was smoking instead. The thing is, I didn’t really put this all together until not very long ago. You know, I didn’t even know this stuff was medically useful until just a few years ago.
I’ve had seven surgeries in the last 14 years and I need at least one more on my neck. That’s a lot.
Up until four years ago, they had me on a regimen of 9,855 pills a year. The sheer volume of pills just about killed me. I drove off the highway and down an embankment at 70 miles an hour. I was finally stopped at the bottom by a tree. I’m grateful for that tree. Otherwise, I’d be at the bottom of Taft Lake right now. This happened because I passed out at 11 in the morning from taking the pills the doctor had told me to take. The cocktail they were giving me is no longer legal to prescribe. If they were to subscribe this combination to someone now they would lose their license to practice medicine. The fact is, they prescribed these pills to me for years and, because of them, my life fell apart. It was at this point that I hit rock bottom. I decided that if I wanted to live, I had to get my life together.
I quit taking all the pills and started smoking cannabis again in order to keep it together. Since then, I’m no longer on a pain management program and have been using cannabis instead.
Like I said earlier, anytime my life was a wreck it was because I was using alcohol, pills, or whatever, to deal with the issues I needed to take care of.
Recently, I’ve had to get back on some pain medicine but I don’t have to take anything for anxiety, or to sleep at night, or all of the other pills they gave me to counteract the side effects of the first pills they gave me. Today, it’s only a few pills compared to the almost 10,000 pills I was taking four years ago. This was all made possible by regular micro dosing of cannabis every day.
I ran out once a couple of years ago. After eight days of doing without, I ended up in the hospital. Not because of any withdrawals from THC. There were none. It was because the pain simply became intolerable. Cannabis alone had replaced the need for five different pharmaceutical medications. Eight days of nothing put me in the hospital for two days. My body needed something that cannabis was providing me to take the place of all the pills that I wasn’t taking any more.
I wasn’t about to start back up on the pills so I contacted a friend to bring me some cannabis. We smoked a joint together and everything was fixed, just like that. I decided I’m never running out again. It just can’t happen. Since then, I’ve made sure to always have a source available. I also carry a pinch hitter with me all the time and I’ve even started to grow my own. I micro dose every time I go outside or when people smoke a cigarette.
I’ve discovered through trial and error, (unfortunately, a lot of error) that cannabis provides my body something that allows me to avoid all the pills that used to cause me so much trouble. The cannabis plan also provides my body with – whatever it is, chemical or otherwise – the means to operate to its fullest potential.
The fact is, humans had a close interaction with the cannabis plant for tens of thousands of years. We were using it for livestock feed, grain, medicine, clothing, and so on. Our bodies have evolved an endocannabinoid system of receptors in our brains that our bodies depend on to work properly. By banning and attempting to eradicate all traces of cannabis from our lives, we’re starving our bodies of compounds they need to function properly.
I understand now why you are so passionate about medical cannabis. However, what ultimately led you to get publicly and politically out in front of the cannabis movement?
After growing one or two plants in my closet like many people, I went to California last year and spent a month on a legal farm. I’d never been to one of these before. Now this was after I had come to realize that my life was only sane and in control when I was smoking cannabis. So this experience allowed me to dive in and see what comes out of it.
While I was there with these beautiful plants, there were seven other adults. As it turns out, every one of us was from Oklahoma. At that point, I thought to myself, there is something really wrong here. Here we are on the West coast but we’re all from Oklahoma. Every one of us wants to go home but we have to be here to be legal. Something is very wrong back home and something needed to be done.
While I was there, a friend of mine from Oklahoma showed me SQ 788. I think I’d heard of it a couple years before, and had signed petitions, but didn’t really think it was going anywhere. I was not involved in it at all. Anyway, the day he showed me SQ788, I could not sleep that night. Something in my head told me that I needed to read and do more. The next morning while we were all drinking coffee and talking, I decided it was time to come home and get involved.
When I got back, I wanted to get involved. It turned out nobody really knew who I was but figured I could work to get people registered to vote. The problem I saw with this is, because I have such a hard time talking to people, I couldn’t see myself sitting at a table waiting for strangers to walk up and register. I know I’m not very approachable that way. I’m just not!
What I did instead was post on Facebook to people in Muskogee. I posted that I would come to their house and help them register to vote. While I was there, I would talk to them about SQ788. I would get people who would argue both for and against the issue but, no matter, I would offer to get together with them for a cup of coffee if they wanted to talk about it some more. I got very few takers but it usually got them to stop yelling about “potheads,” which allowed me to talk to them a little more about how it was used as medicine. Then I started to do videos about cannabis as medicine. I talked about how I would probably be dead by now without it. In time, many other people started to tell me stories about themselves or people they knew that cannabis had helped.
Everything just grew from there until I am where I am today.
Where do you see yourself going from here?
Well, I’d like to continue lobbying, which is, essentially, what I’m doing now except, unfortunately, its entirely unpaid. What I’d really like to do is to travel around the state on my motorcycle interviewing people about cannabis and recording their stories. I’d also like to visit businesses and growers just starting out, and then visit again a year down the road to see which ones succeeded and which ones didn’t.
In essence, I’d like to do a show, something like “Discover Oklahoma” on OETA…if I can get someone to fund the project just enough to let me travel and have a place to stay overnight on occasion. I’m getting old enough now that 10 or more hours on a bike is just too much to do in a single day.
I want to travel to some little town and sit down with a bunch of old-timers and listen to the local sheriff say to the camera that he’s just glad he doesn’t have to go around busting teenagers that have a little marijuana.
I started Uncle Grumpy’s “Hemp for Hospice.” The idea is that no patient in hospice should ever have to pay for cannabis. I’ve been talking with growers about donating their trimmings, and with processors about processing them into oils, tinctures, topical, and so on. I’ve also been working with the OCNA (Oklahoma Cannabis Nurses Association) to administer the products and train other medical personnel in their usage.
I don’t believe anyone in hospice should ever have to pay for cannabis for palliative or end of life care, and this is a very good way to do just that. Best of all, it will all be done on a volunteer basis with no charge to the patient under the guides of research.
I guarantee you that if we had 100 hospice patients in this program at least one of them will be able to finally have a moment like eating a meal or sitting up in a chair or even going home for their final days without pain.
I truly believe in this project. I ask anyone that wants to get involved to contact me in some way.
Thank you, I’ll see you down the road!
You can follow Uncle Grumpy’s journey on Facebook.com/chrisamber.moe or on YouTube Unclegrumpy@youtube.com