“The inspiration came from watching a documentary about a little girl with epilepsy who was seizing 300 times a week,” says composer Gary Rich, whose musical Ameriwanica extols the health benefits of the green leafy vegetable. “She got treated with CBD oil [with no psychotropic compound] and her seizures stopped immediately....
“I was inspired by that to write a song called ‘Seizure’s Palace.’ After that I saw another program about treating Crohn’s disease with marijuana and I got the idea for a storyline.”
But Rich’s interest in medical marijuana had a personal component.
“From the age of 12 I had severe stomach disorders,” he said. “And I was placed on opiates to treat them. It wasn’t until I turned 30 that another doctor told me I shouldn’t be taking them. So I quit — and I thought I was losing my mind! I didn’t know I was going through withdrawals — I thought because a doctor prescribed them they were safe.”
In the interim, Rich discovered pot.
“When I was in college in Texas, I tried marijuana — and for the first time I discovered what an appetite was. At the time I weighed about 110 pounds.”
But sparking up in Texas was a risky business.
“I was fraught with stress, always looking over my shoulder. If your neighbors could smell it, they could call the police. At the same time, doctors push the opiates like Vicodin and the insurance companies are glad to pay for it.”
Rich moved from Dallas to San Diego in 2013.
“Out here I can go to a doctor, get a medical marijuana card, and treat my disease without opiates, and that’s amazing.”
His musical combines the narratives of patients who meet in a dispensary. Everyone has a different story, but there is a unifying thread.
“It’s about the quality of life. We shouldn’t be telling soldiers that have lost limbs for their country not to use pot. People are dying every day from opiates. No one overdoses on pot. Are you a patient or a criminal? That’s the basic question.”
Rich has trademarked Ameriwanica: The Musical and is recording titles such as “Amsterdamned,” and “CBD in the USA,” to get the ball rolling on staging a production soon.