For most adults, medical decisions are not wrought with self-doubt and moral strife.
But Robert Hager who recently began treating his severe diabetic foot pain with medical marijuana in the form of edibles has a unique perspective.
For 28 years, Hager, better known as Robby Redcheeks in the American hardcore punk scene, has been straight edge, living by an ideology of not smoking, drinking alcohol or using drugs.
“Being straight edge was always a choice for me. It was how I wanted to lead my life,” Hager explains. “I’m not necessarily going back on my philosophy, but I can’t consider myself straight edge anymore. It’s a strange moral dilemma.”
The 43-year-old has tattoos that announce his straight edge ideals, about which he also sang in his old band Damage. He has been an active member of the hardcore punk scene since the early 1990s when he started booking concerts, touring the world as a roadie for bands, putting out records and taking photos at shows.
Full disclosure, we have considered Robby a friend for nearly 20 years. Before the publication of this story, less than a handful of people were aware of his medical cannabis use and we are glad to be able to share Robby’s struggle.
Diagnosed with diabetes in Spring 2016, Robby began suffering foot pain. His doctor recommended he take narcotic painkillers and he refused, deciding instead to investigate using medical marijuana in edible form.
He’s tried various edibles and is exploring sugar-free options such as cannabis tincture as well as CBD products, derived from cannabis but without THC or psychoactive elements.
He hopes to keep his dosage from impacting his mind as he seeks pain relief, not a high. “I’m trying to find a happy medium between my pain being gone and feeling completely obliterated.” Robby says the cannabis has also helped his serious insomnia problems for which he has long taken prescription drugs that he now hopes to stop. “This shit puts me out like a light.”
To those unfamiliar with the hardcore punk scene and especially the straight edge community, it may seem silly that a grown man has ethical quandaries about getting high. But those with experience in the culture would understand why Robby says he knows his use of marijuana as medicine will offend some people. But, as he explains, “I don’t really care about that. For me, it’s about my health. That’s what’s important right now. It’s a personal decision, not a political or a punk rock statement.”
His decision to embrace straight edge nearly 30 years ago was even more personal.
“I grew up in a really shitty situation,” Robby explains. “Both my parents struggled with alcohol and hard drugs. I saw the havoc that drugs brought on my family.” He already knew he didn’t want any part of drugs or alcohol, he just didn’t know there was a name for it. “Then I started high school and met a kid with a Gorilla Biscuits shirt. He had a skateboard, I had a skateboard and the rest was history,” Robby told us.
Diabetes is not on the approved medical marijuana conditions by the state of New Jersey, where Robby lives and works as a roofing project manager for a contracting company. He’s curious to see if he could be accepted as a medical marijuana patient in New Jersey, he’s reluctant because of the prohibition on owning firearms.
“I want to be as legal as possible without infringing on my rights,” explains Robby, who is confident that now more people are aware of his course of treatment that he will have no shortage of offers from people to provide him edibles.
Nervous as Robby is about coming out as a cannabis user, he also feels a burden lifted from his shoulders. “I expect the day to be full of texts and also every ex-member of Ink & Dagger wanting to get me lifted.”