"I wish people like me would stop being criminalized."
Marcel is seven years old when he is admitted to the hospital because of the presence of blood in his stools and a suspicion of appendicitis.
Unfortunately, the suspicion is not confirmed: Marcel's appendix is fine. At first, no one knows what's wrong with Marcel. For the boy, that means four weeks in hospital, alone in an eight-bed room.
"I still remember the first time I was in the hospital. I felt so alone, so sad and so scared. And because it was close to Christmas, I didn't know if I could celebrate the Christmas Eve at home with my family".
Marcel has Crohn's disease.
After numerous tests, it turns out that Marcel has Crohn's disease, a chronic inflammation of the intestines. As Crohn's disease research was still in its infancy in the early 2000s,
he is "...full of cortisone
At the time, the drug was considered a "panacea". I became chubby and really bloated because of the water retention, "says the young man. At least cortisone keeps Crohn's disease under control for a few years.
the disease strikes again
When Marcel is eleven years old, the disease strikes again with full force. At the time, he had to spend three quarters of the year at the children's hospital in St. Gallen (Switzerland) and he also received lessons there.
"Doing homework and learning undisturbed in the hospital is almost impossible. There were a lot of distractions because, for example, the nurses kept coming into the room".
In high school, despite his long hospital stays, he stays on top of his school work and doesn't have to repeat a class.
As the anti-inflammatory cortisone eventually no longer helps him, he is quickly considered "out of treatment".
This is why doctors advise surgical removal of the colon and half of the small intestine.
"I wasn't asked at the time. My mum had to make a decision and she trusted the doctors. I don't blame anyone - they didn't know any other ways" .
Unfortunately, the operation only delayed his problem. Instead of intestines, Marcel's stomach and esophagus are now inflamed, and a fistula forms from the rectum to the bladder.
As a result, urine and stool mix and Marcel suffers from constant bladder and kidney infections.
"The surgeon told me that the fistula could be surgically removed. But there was only a one in two chance that the operation would be successful. For me, it was too little. I could have become impotent or had need an artificial bladder outlet" .
Marcel's kidney and bladder problems therefore persisted until he received an artificial bowel outlet (ostomy) at the age of 12.
From now on, Marcel must always carry the ostomy bag with him. He's ashamed of it - especially in front of the girls.
Some classmates also harass me: "The ostomy bags were still very bad then compared to now. A few times the bag leaked at school and there was a huge mess. I I was teased and even beaten” , he says surprisingly calm.
Marcel then lies to his doctors, male and female, telling them that the bladder fistula is no longer a problem - only to have his artificial bowel outlet reversed. "I hated my illness and wanted to look healthy. Of course, without the artificial bowel evacuation, the fistula problems came back, along with the bladder and kidney infections". For a few years, he got away with it by taking painkillers and antibiotics.
Despite his numerous absences due to illness, Marcel successfully completed his secondary studies and began an apprenticeship as an electrician.
However, he has to interrupt his apprenticeship - partly because there are often no toilets on construction sites. He moves on to a commercial apprenticeship, successfully completes it and then works part-time in a local community.
At the age of 22, however, his condition deteriorated to such an extent that he decided to have another stoma inserted. He sought detailed advice from a manufacturer and discovered that ostomy technology had improved. With the new artificial intestinal outlet, inflammations of the bladder and kidneys finally disappear
Unfortunately, Crohn's disease is still present.
Marcel suffers from bad periods of diarrhoea, during which he loses several liters of liquid at a time. "I couldn't keep up with the drink. At first, I received infusions once a week in the hospital, then every day. Without them, I would have died of thirst. Besides, I was constantly tired and dizzy from the constant dehydration,” he says of that terrible time. At home, alone in his apartment, he often has little strength to get something to drink or cook.
Sudden improvement thanks to cannabis
When Marcel, in his late twenties, has heart palpitations again - due to dehydration - and he can't sleep because of it, he catches a joint for the first time.
He immediately notices how good it is for him: he can fall asleep, his intestines "calm down" and his complaints decrease. Marcel had already learned about the positive effects of cannabis on Crohn's disease on the Internet.
At first, he only smoked in the evening before going to sleep, then two to three joints a day:
"But always only when I had ticked off all my tasks and definitely didn't need to drive anymore.
Due to the anti-inflammatory effect of cannabis, Marcel's intestinal activity slows down: eventually, the organ can better utilize the fluid and food given to it. Marcel has a lot more energy. And he needs to take less medication.
It goes well for a few years until a traffic stop in 2016, when the policeman asks for a urine test. Marcel explains his medical history and
"...that he couldn't pee in a tube like a healthy person" .
The cop then takes a mouth swab, the result of which is negative, and lets him go. Unfortunately, the policeman reports Marcel's medical history to the road traffic office, following which Marcel is obliged to take a traffic test - at a cost of 1400 francs.
Marcel openly tells the traffic psychologist his medical history and explains to her that he uses cannabis for self-therapy.
Of course, the mandatory drug test is positive. Marcel emphasizes:
"I'm a responsible person and I would never intentionally endanger anyone. Driving after a joint has never happened to me. On the other hand, nobody cares, and it's even legal to drive a car inflated with painkillers like morphine. Which was often the case for me out of necessity when I had to go to the hospital" .
The road traffic office withdraws Marcel's driver's license. He defends himself with the help of a lawyer and a letter from his doctor - unfortunately without success.
For Marcel, driving a car means a bit of freedom for several reasons: "The car offers me a protected space. If I have to go to the bathroom, I can simply stop without stress. I can quickly drive to my many doctor and hospital appointments. I can also visit my seriously ill mother in the nursing home 20 minutes away at any time. By public transport, I would have to change trains four times and it would take me well over an hour".
From now on, Marcel must submit to urine tests and drug counseling every month for a year. He remembers :
"I even had suicidal thoughts because of the driving ban. I could hardly visit my mother anymore, I had anxiety attacks and my health deteriorated further. I went without constantly asked the question: why am I being punished like this? I have done nothing wrong" .
Marcel tells his thoughts to his confidante at the hospital and she responds immediately. A psychologist is called and Marcel receives emergency antidepressants. Marcel reduces his cannabis use and ends up quitting completely. Unfortunately, with the reduction in cannabis use, his health problems are also returning.
A year later: he passes the traffic test and the final drug test, which again costs him 1400 francs - also because the traffic psychologist is not a declared opponent of cannabis.
Marcel is required to take urine tests every month for a year and continue to follow drug counseling. The latter does unexpected good for Marcel - because he is received without prejudice, has good conversations and feels understood.
"Finally, someone told me that I had done nothing wrong. And it was confirmed to me that my life - despite the driving ban - is well under control".
Marcel, to be able to be mobile, stopped his cannabis self-therapy. Thanks to many professional conversations, his partner and a stable circle of friends, he is much better today. In the meantime, he has also learned to accept his illness, which makes it easier for him psychologically.
Since February 2021, he has been working part-time for the canton in an integration position and has a good chance of being hired permanently.
He would also like to increase his workload. Regarding cannabis, he has one wish: "I hope that the prejudice against people who treat themselves with cannabis will soon end. I hope that the medical profession and the authorities will realize that there are people like me who can only be helped by cannabis. And that we are therefore far from being criminals".