Elvy Musikka is the stoned grandmother I always wanted, and if you meet her, you’ll feel the same. The OG cannabis activist lives in Eugene, and she’s the definition of a firebrand. She’s also something of a rarity in this country—someone who receives cannabis from the federal government, at no charge. Uncle Sam is her weed dealer (although he’s maybe not the best weed dealer).
Born in Colombia in 1939, Musikka moved in 1953 with her parents to the States, where surgery for her congenital cataracts left her partially blinded and eventually led to glaucoma. She was arrested in 1988 for cannabis cultivation, and decided to petition to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), and requested to be added to an Investigative New Drug (IND) program. She was approved, which resulted in her joining Robert Randall and Irvin Rosenfeld as participants in the program. Because of their tireless efforts to help others, 18 additional patients were also enrolled, each one having to submit extensive medical records from a “reliable doctor” to the Department Enforcement Agency (DEA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and NIDA.
Musikka receives some of that infamous, federally-approved, University of Mississippi-grown cannabis—300 joints per month in a large tin, which she picks up all at once each January in Florida. (Fun fact: Over the years, that’s 104,400 joints she has smoked from the feds alone. The next time someone brags how tough they pull, drop that truth bomb.)
However, the fed’s weed leaves something to be desired, to say the least. Until recently, seeds and stems were common, and the flower usually tops out between four to six percent THC—when it’s really even weed, and not just hemp.
For Musikka, that failure on Uncle Sam’s part to properly distinguish between ditch and dank has had dire consequences. In 2012, she received a tin filled with what she deems “pure garbage. It was just hemp. Which I love to wear, but it wasn’t doing anything for my glaucoma, which I had been treating for 37 years with cannabis! I assumed that I was getting the THC levels I needed and expected, but within a month, I knew there was a problem.”
That problem resulted in her losing an optic nerve and going completely blind in one eye. “All because the government sent me garbage instead of cannabis,” she says. “Cannabis is my medicine, and I have a prescription for it, just like any other prescription.”
That didn’t slow Musikka down. If anything, it galvanized her commitment to cannabis education. “To arrest an adult for choosing a wiser ‘Bud’ is the epitome of ignorance and stupidity,” she tells me. “We are ignorant about this amazing plant, and ignorance blinds us. All this talk about cannabis being a drug—what the hell do you think alcohol is?”
She met cannabis activist Jack Herer in 1989, and someone read her Herer’s book The Emperor Wears No Clothes, which she says “changed my life.” Musikka began touring to speak at campuses and conferences around the world. She strongly advocates for having a comprehensive curriculum about the science of cannabis and the endocannabinoid system taught at every medical school. She also wants the stigma of cannabis use to be lifted.
“It’s another form of fighting ignorance to help educate people that cannabis users should not be shunned or looked down upon. In the cannabis community, my goodness, I’m very popular,” she says with a laugh, “but I have members of my family that have rejected me and won’t even speak to me for using cannabis, which I’ve been doing for 43 years. Thankfully, I was accepted into new circles, and I found my ‘cannabis family.’”
Musikka moved 12 years ago to Eugene, a city that knows the difference between raw hemp and sticky bud. She is an Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) patient, although she’s peeved that she has to pay fees and can’t find a doctor to handle her IND program needs—hence the trip to Florida to pick up the tins of what can be charitably called “mids.”
I ask her how the quality of her pre-rolls compares to Oregon’s offerings. “There is none. I smoke my federal weed during the day, and the low THC allows me to easily navigate the world. At night, I use local top-shelf flower or edibles.”
Favorite strain? “Whatever I’m smoking at the moment,” she laughs.