Dragon Slayer

Shelly Van Winkle Hemp Oil

Source: Cannabis Nurses Magazine


“And I try, oh my God, do I try
I try all the time in this institution
And I pray, oh my God, do I pray
I pray every single day FOR A REVOLUTION!
And so I cry sometimes when I’m lying in bed
Just to get it all out, what’s in my head
And I, I am feeling a little peculiar
And so I wake in the morning and I step outside
And I take deep breath and I get real high
And I scream from the top of my lungs,
And I say hey…. hey….
I said hey, what’s goin’ on
And I say hey…. hey….
I said hey, what’s goin’ on”


Before I met Benton and Loretta Mackenzie, I knew very little about the justice system and how things truly work in a courtroom. I was shocked at the denial of basic constitutional rights that ran unchecked through the Mackenzie’s trial. I saw a man denied the right to tell a jury his truth because the law decides what is true in Iowa. Iowans, through ignorance and complacency, have allowed this to be the machine of manufactured justice, a slow insidious chipping away of their basic rights established by a stark legal fact. Medicinal Cannabis is not allowed by the state law of Iowa, nor Federal law; therefore, is not allowable as a legal defense. You don’t get to tell your truth, unless your truth is legal under a state law (in this case, in front of the jury).

Benton was only allowed to tell his truth with the jury dismissed, in front of the judge. The legal experts can wrestle with this fact. I did what I could do as the Registered Nurse: my first act of disobedience that didn’t involve going a few miles over the speed limit.

I was threatened with contempt of court because Benton was denied his request to have his nurse present in court. Benton was terminally ill. I was not his assigned nurse through hospice, and she was not allowed to be there, but I showed up in court (after talking to Loretta) as a nurse to be there for Benton.

I couldn’t stand knowing how sick he was and how he was suffering, and being denied what had been ordered as necessary by a physician, because a judge didn’t want the jury to know Benton was sick. If the jury figured out Benton grew Cannabis to treat his aggressive cancer, what would happen? Apparently Judge Harry Latham of Scott County, IA, didn’t want to find out. I came back for sentencing, and I brought signs and helped organize protesters, even reaching out to then-candidate for Iowa governor Dr. Lee Hieb and her candidate for Lt. Gov. Jake Porter to show up; they did. I was humbled when Benton, facing his entire family losing everything, while he faced death, realized I had forgotten my lunch and shared his sandwich with me. This man was a giant, a gentle spirit of love and kindness. He profoundly touched my faith and renewed something in me that I had given up on.

I had given up on being a nurse because I am sick too. Benton showed me true courage, as did Loretta and Cody and his entire family. During Benton’s trial, a new CBD oil only law took effect for children with intractable epilepsy, I had heard very little about it, and there had been very little news coverage about it. I did not even know what CBD oil was or how it could help epilepsy. I started reading, researching. I went to a hearing at the Davenport library and took some notes and heard the frustrations being voiced by parents over the processes being imposed on the parents of very fragile children, just to attempt to apply for a CBD oil card, that would only allow them to possess the oil in Iowa, but not actually give them a place to obtain/access the oil, nor a safe, regulated, dosed, medicinal product. As a nurse, I was thinking, well, what kind of medicinal legislation is this? It is just a straight decriminalization of possession of CBD oil bill for one medical diagnosis. That is all the law in Iowa does.

I spoke up at this hearing, and was invited to come testify in Des Moines as an RN for an Intermediary Committee meeting on 9/11/2014 regarding the CBD oil bill and issues that surrounded the bill that needed amended, resolved, clarified. This was a bipartisan panel of Senators and Representatives and it was my first trip to the state capitol and my first introduction to the processes of state government. I decided that to make a true difference as an RN for medicinal cannabis in the state of Iowa, the only way was going to be through education, advocating and true bipartisanship. I had to improve my education, and I had to grow my courage. I had to learn patience. I applied for a scholarship for the Patient’s Out of Time Conference in Florida and obtained a Cannabis Nurse Certification. I am now Iowa’s only Certified Cannabis RN. I enjoyed telling US Senator Chuck Grassley that his home state had a Certified Cannabis Nurse when I urged him to move forward with the CARERS act and remove Cannabis from Schedule 1, to allow for greater ease of research and use of cannabis as medicine, to put an end to patients in 40 plus states with medicinal cannabis laws being criminals under Federal law.

I helped found and am a Director of the Iowa Hemp Association and travel all over Iowa giving education on medicinal Cannabis. This is especially dear to me because I care deeply about Iowa as a state and our environment and Industrial Hemp can help remedy the grievous harm years of heavy industrious farming has done to our soils and waterways. A healthy environment will make for healthy Iowans. I am a Veteran of the US Army, and I honor my brothers and sisters of all branches of service and advocate for their needs in my efforts in Iowa as well. I gave a speech on the steps of the state Capitol where I said, “Veterans are surviving war, but they are coming home, and they can’t survive Iowa” because last winter we lost 5 Veterans to suicide that I could verify via the news. I asked Carly Fiorina, a presidential candidate, at a local forum in Davenport Iowa, a question about Federalism, and what she would do as President for medicinal cannabis patients, and she proceeded to tell a story about breast cancer and how you can’t have chemo and cannabis together. I decided to step back up to the microphone and stop her from speaking any more misinformation, because what she was saying was untrue and could cause harm to cancer patients. I said, “that is not true” and the audience gasped at me. This was a packed ballroom of about 1,000 people who adored her, and who were not there to hear the Certified Cannabis Nurse speak. I was nervous. One of her people came up to me and pulled me from the microphone and told me to be quiet. I left and the people in the audience applauded. I was trying to hurry to the elevator and several people were chasing me, turns out, they were reporters. I was interviewed and ended up on Huffpost Live and MSN.

My kids nicknamed me the Dragon Slayer, because I am slaying the dragons who perpetuate the mythology of reefer madness that kills the sick and suffering at the hands of those who are ruthless and hungry for power or who display a complete willful ignorance to science and medicine in our country. I have put 7,000 miles on my car in 7 months. I have attended 20 plus legislative forums, driven up to my state Capitol in Des Moines for meetings with my Senators and Representatives and developed relationships and friendships with them. I speak up when misinformation will be presented as fact by Corporate Hospitals at educational forums. I will show up. Yesterday I took on Chris Christie and yes, he too is a dragon, and yes, I stood my ground and I told him, cannabis is medicine.

A President is not just a leader of those who are well, he must lead those who are sick and suffering and if he or she lacks compassion for those among us who have the least ability to raise their voice to represent their needs, they lack a key character component of a President. Service. Nurses get this. We serve our fellow human beings endlessly. We expect it out of our leaders. I strive to make medicinal cannabis an election issues because it can help effect true change at a Federal level for all medicinal Cannabis patients, but also because, there is no other way to go in Iowa. We are not a ballot state and resources are limited to move legislation forward. To effect true change, one must have tenacity, moral courage, an unshakable belief in the truth of what you are seeking to accomplish and the humility to accept failure, learn from it, and persevere in your final goal.

Benton. I will keep my promise. I will slay dragons.