Nikki Lawley is a NY state resident and has has always been a proud and diligent worker. She’s served as an HVAC filtration salesperson, later starting her own company, then as a casino dealer, and most recently, as a pediatric nurse.
She had suffered two traumatic brain injuries during her younger years, but it was the third TBI that suddenly changed everything. In a heartbeat, her life changed from one of optimism, vibrancy, enthusiasm, confidence, and extroversion, to one of constant pain, withdrawal, depression, and hopelessness. While trying to help administer a routine vaccine to a young boy, Nikki was thrown against the wall, suffering a significant TBI and cervical instability in the process.
Nikki’s TBI has caused cognitive deficiencies, confusion, memory loss, anxiety, and pain. She found herself unable to work, unable to interact with others, and in a very dark place. None of the numerous traditional medications she’s tried helped, and if fact, their ghastly side effects left her even worse off.
She had long since reached the end of her rope, when, on a whim, figuring she had nothing more to lose, she turned to cannabis. Little did she know that this seemingly mundane weed would save her life and restore her hope. Cannabis helps Nikki alleviate her pain, reducing it from unbearable levels to more manageable ones, and empowering to her to live her life again.
Nikki has struggled to find the type of cannabis that works best for her and to have legal access to her medicine. In fact, she regularly travels from Buffalo, NY to Ontario, Canada for legal access to cannabis to medicate herself. Nikki’s experiences with cannabis have filled her with a passion to learn more about the science behind the plant, to advocate for patients everywhere, and to expose others to the wonders of cannabis. She has shared her story and journey with many, she is a member of multiple online support groups for individuals that have suffered head injuries, she serves as an active voice in the cannabis communities, and she hopes to use her story to inspire others to never give up.
Nikki wrote a blog discussing a frightening and frustrating experience having to cross the border from the United States into Canada. The Standard Operating Procedures need to include kindness and compassion so we to do not traumatize people.
Here is Nikki's story ....
6 days before federal legalization in Canada on 10-11-2018 .... Nikki Lawley, a medical cannabis patient and advocate found herself in an awkward situation at the Canadian Border entering from the United States at Niagara Falls. This is her story in her own words.
"I was pulled over for a random secondary search. I often partake cannabis .... especially during the colder months of the year in my car. Not because I am driving anywhere but protection from the elements .... I am very aware of the differences between the borders.
My father worked for Customs and Border patrol on the American side ! I would have no reason to bring cannabis into Canada. That would be pretty stupid since I have a medical card in Canada and the US, I have friends in Canada that keep my medical cannabis for me. I have a medical card in Canada and in the United States.
This particular day while undergoing secondary inspection the Canadian Border Agents stated they smelled cannabis and asked me when had I used cannabis today? I stated several hours earlier I had medicated but that I am a medical patient that uses cannabis daily for relief of my traumatic brain injury symptoms. I was asked if I had any cannabis in the car and of course the answer was no.
My car is clean and vacuumed regularly so there was no question in my mind, I had no cannabis on board. After 30 minutes of non stop looking with three border agents in every area of my car including the engine. They then said they would bring the canine to search my car. I was in no way worried or concerned. I was almost cocky .... like go ahead you won’t find anything....
So the dog comes and smells me and goes all around the outside of the car and then is lead inside my car. When the dog is actively searching and his tail is wagging that is a good thing ... as soon as he sits and is still that equals you're screwed. So he goes all through the car and all of the sudden the dog just sits in the driver seat ... dead serious and stops moving ..... they pull the dog out of my car and then focus all of their efforts on the front seat of my car for 30 more minutes.
Finally .... the violation is found .... a two dollar cannabis joint from the Shannonville reservation was wedged in the seat track and had been run over back and forth hundreds of times. It was unusable and I had no idea it was there.
As you can imagine I was mortified and the TBI symptoms were out of control. Head pain , anxiety , stress , confusion , panic , difficult word finding ability. I was absolutely a mess by now an hour into the search and seizure. It was explained to me that because of this less than a gram of cannabis seizure, I would be pulled over for secondary inspection for the next 7 years. It was such a traumatic experience and because I travel to Canada so frequently this experience is forever a reminder to make sure there is no evidence of cannabis in your car. So as promised 9/10 times when I go to Canada , I get pulled over for secondary inspection. I have never been found to have any other issues with cannabis in my car since.
The issues I now have when I cross the border involve PTSD because of this experience. I genuinely feel like I know most of the officers at the border now. Most officers are kind and recognize me and I realize they are just doing their job. I actually have used this experience to educate and speak to the officers about cannabis medicine and most have been receptive and kind. Most support my mission and realize my passion is because the plant has saved my life. They often see my business card and ask what a cannabis ambassador is and I share my story. Most of these searches are quick and I am on my way in ten minutes. However, lately there have been a couple instances that really concern me for medical patients entering Canada.
The first was a female officer who legitimately had it out for me that day. I felt violated in every way. Everything I answered to her questions she had a problem with .... every single thing! She wanted to know if my car had ever been impounded and taken apart, wanted to know how much money I had, wanted to know why I had air freshener and the car vent air fresheners in my car, went through my cell phone, my pictures, my text messages, my email and browsing history ..... she was desperately trying to find something .... anything to find something wrong.
I have never felt so violated as I did that day in 2019. That really caused me to have PTSD because of how personal she got. I was getting more and more anxious because of this interrogation and truly now each time I cross the border I worry about butting heads with this woman again. Since that time I have had several other less than pleasant experiences including the dog again twice. But luckily nothing dropped again.
March 3, 2020 may top the other detailed interrogations. The usual was happening .... three officers come out .... I take my place in front of the car. I am always asked about the original seizure of less than a gram of cannabis and this particular day the officer asks me when was the last time I consumed cannabis. I said a few hours ago. Apparently that is the wrong answer. I don’t lie when I cross the border, I tell the truth. I don’t have anything to hide. The officer became instantly more inquisitive and stated ... so you're driving high, your high right now .... I said I am a medical patient and I microdose all day. He said so you're driving under the influence. I could test you and take you to OPP and they will draw your blood and if your higher than 2 nanograms of cannabis in your system , you will lose your license and ability to come to Canada and we will seize your car. I became immediately flustered and my clear communication became a challenge, he argued with me for 10 minutes but somehow I managed to be able to leave without the testing.
No one should have to endure this type of questioning and threats as a medical patient. I talk to these guys 2 times a week on average. I never am impaired and I honestly can’t believe I have this problem entering Canada. I love Canada and would love to move there ! They are so much more progressive with cannabis in their country but honestly something needs to be done about this testing of medical cannabis patients. I know I will fail. Are there any protections in place if a patient does get this test ?
I am sharing this story to share awareness and so others don’t make the same mistakes I have. Being honest Is bad in this case. If you say you have consumed cannabis in 24 hours that gives them the right to test you at the border, then they take you to the police station. Please spread awareness and help make changes.
To learn more about Nikki Lawley Click Here