Nate Bradley was a police officer convinced medical marijuana was a fraud. He was trained to believe patients were “dirt bags,” “addicts” and “drug abusers looking for an excuse to get high.” After four years on the job, he started experiencing daily panic attacks and nightmares. To cope, his social drinking turned into daily self-medicating. Soon doctors prescribed a regimen of ineffective anti-anxiety, anti-depression and sleep meds that turned Bradley into a zombie and gave him such severe panic attacks he was hospitalized.
Luckily during his final years as an officer, Bradley regularly encountered educated marijuana patients who were able to live normal lives, free of pain or anxiety thanks to weed. Soon Bradley became a patient himself. And within weeks he couldn’t believe the changes, “I felt like a different person,” he said, “the night terrors and insomnia disappeared, I was off all five-prescription medications and I quit drinking.”
Today Bradley runs the nonprofit organization, Lawmen Protecting Patients and has dedicated his life to educating the public about the healing powers of pot and protecting the rights of patients.
STUFF: Tell us about the first time you smoked pot and felt stoned.
NATE BRADLEY: The first time was 5 days before I was laid off from my job as a cop in 2009. I had been doing research on MJ for a few months and had thinking about using for a while because of my anxiety. At about 1:20 am I was awoken by a major panic attack. I knew that the pills and booze were gonna kill me eventually so I decided that tonight was the night I was gonna try “pot”.
I grabbed my keys, hopped in my car, and drove over to the house of a guy that I knew smoked MJ and got some from him. I went home, walked to my back porch and took two hits of a pipe that I had also got from the guy.
Within 2 minutes all the screaming voices in my head had stopped. My eyes saw clearer than they ever had and I had 30 year of anxiety fall off my shoulders at one time. I looked up at the stars and smiled for what felt like the first time in years (If you need a song to describe that moment think of “Safe and Sound” by Rebelution). I then went inside my house, laid down next to my wife and slept for about 10 hours. The next day when I woke up I realized things had changed….
STUFF: Remember that scene in Return of the Jedi when Lord Vader became enlightened and turned away from the Dark Side of the Force? He like removed his helmet exposing his big fat fuckin’ humpty dumpty head to look upon his son, OG Luke Skywalker with his very own bloodshot eyes? So, uhm…was your experience going from police officer to marijuana patient similar?
NATE BRADLEY: Surreal—3 years later I am still in state of “unlearning” past ways of thinking and behaviors. It’s been wonderful. I no longer see the world as place where people are “better” than other people. We are all the same and have just had much different upbringings, which formed the way we look and react to life.
STUFF: What would be the first thing you’d tell a fellow officer to change his mind about marijuana prohibition?
NATE BRADLEY: I tell them that ending MJ prohibition is about making a choice. It’s not a question of “do we want MJ being sold in our communities?”; it’s about choosing who we want selling MJ in our communities—a guy on street corner that will sell to our children or a licensed dealer that will lose their license if they get caught selling to a kid?
I also explain how every minute spent cutting down a MJ plant is a minute they are not looking for child predators and rapists.
STUFF: You mentioned that it was a marijuana patient/activist who influenced your favorable opinion of medical marijuana. What did he or she say exactly?
NATE BRADLEY: One simple sentence: “It got me off all the pills”, as a cop that had seen how pill addiction had damaged and killed so many people, that statement made MJ a solution and not a problem in my mind.
STUFF: Now that you smoke weed, do you listen to more Pink Floyd?
NATE BRADLEY: I no longer shut it off when it comes off the radio…
STUFF: Do donuts taste better when you’re stoned?
NATE BRADLEY: Doesn’t everything?
STUFF: Speaking of donuts, who makes the best?
NATE BRADLEY: Stanley’s Donuts 3710 J st in Sacramento, CA 95816. So good it you would consider selling your own mother into slavery for their bakers dozen.
STUFF: Do you feel that our current prohibition on marijuana makes society more or less safe?
NATE BRADLEY: Less safe, every dollar spent on enforcing MJ prohibition laws is a dollar not being spent going after child molesters and other criminals.
STUFF: How do you feel about the recreational use of marijuana? Were you smoking weed when prop 19 was on the ballot? How did you feel about it?
NATE BRADLEY: I became a patient in 2009, joined Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) in May 2010 and became a spokesperson for Prop 19 in June 2010. I understand the concerns that some people had with Prop 19, but I supported it because mmj patients will continue to be treated like second-class citizens until MJ is legalized for all adult use across the board. Truth is that Prop 19 ended up permanently changing the face the debate on MJ legalization forever.
STUFF: NWA’s Fuck the Police is probably not the best song to have playing while a cop approaches your car during a traffic stop. So can you give us any better song suggestions?
NATE BRADLEY: HAHAHA that’s a great song if you want to be the next taser dash cam video to make the front page of Reddit. I would suggest bumping the theme to Barney and Friends. ” I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family” might start the traffic stop off with a positive note, or it might just confuse the heck out him.
But on a boring and serious note the safest thing you can do is have your car and radio and turned off. Turning off your car lets the cop know you have no intention of taking off as he is approaching your vehicle. Traffic noise can be really loud, turning your radio off makes it easier for you to hear each other, which means he spend less time at your car asking you questions. Plus most cops will ask you to turn if off when they first contact you anyways.
STUFF: We never understood why NWA sang fuck the police in the first place. Shouldn’t it be more like Fuck Sting…because Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers are pretty cool? It’s Sting who’s a total dick, right?
NATE BRADLEY: C’mon I’ve been playing bass since I was a kid, don’t make me go after Sting… lol. Though it might not hurt to have a “Don’t stand so close to me” or “Driven to tears” playing the next time you get stopped by the cops.
STUFF: Okay, then…so what’s the best record to have laying on the backseat when pulled over?
NATE BRADLEY: Metallica’s Black album and/or And Justice for All are always solid bets. I don’t know a single cop that doesn’t like ol’school Metallica. You may get extra points if you have actual vinyl in the car and not CD’s. Side note: Do you people actually still listen to CD’s?
STUFF: Our most awesome “my other car also smells like weed” license plate frame is probably a bad idea, right? Any tips for patients to avoid being pulled over in the first place?
NATE BRADLEY: Besides doing the basic stuff like obeying the traffic laws and not flipping off cops, there are a few other things you can do. If you have a license plate frame at all, it might get you pulled over if it blocks the registration stickers or any of the license numbers. Trailer hitches that block out license plates can also get you stopped. Also don’t put covers on you license plate, even “clear” covers can make it hard for the officer to see the plate when he is behind you, which in turn gives him the right to stop you to verify the plate number.
Equipment violations are the main reason that I would pull people over for when I was a patrol. Walk around your car before you leave and make sure all your lights work. This includes; brake lights, headlights, taillights, turn signals and license plate lights. License plate lights are the main one. Most people don’t realize they even have them in the first place. When you check your license plate make sure you have your current registration sticker on and not in your glove compartment.
Also, a cracked windshield and/or stuff hanging on your rear view mirror can result in a traffic stop if the officer can effectively verbalize how he believe either one of those things obstructed your view. The best thing you can do is travel in high traffic times. Yes it will take longer to get to you destination, but you greatly reduce the chance of cop getting behind your car.
STUFF: By the way what flavor air freshener works best to cover up the smell of weed in a dorm room? Actually, can you give us some other pointers for when police come a knockin’.
NATE BRADLEY: Don’t answer the door, talk through a window if possible. Have copies of your recommendation on hand. If you are cultivating for yourself or a group, make sure that you have a copy of your recommendation and the recommendations of the people you are growing for.
STUFF: White lighters…what can you caution stoners about using white lighters. (we hear resin is a dead giveaway.)
NATE BRADLEY: I have to be honest, if a cop knows that the back stuff on your lighter is resin; he’s a stoner too… On a serious note lighters without the presence cigarettes will make them think their weed around. So just keep everything hidden.
STUFF: Have you noticed that smoking weed makes vegetables taste better, music sound better, laundry smell fresher and mother-in-laws more tolerable? Got any other observations to include?
NATE BRADLEY: Yes, it changed my entire outlook on life; it especially improved my relationship with my mother in law (not kidding). It’s like for the first time in my life I’m no longer consumed with myself and what “annoys me”, which in turn has allowed me to really see everything much more clearly and appreciate the smalls things.
STUFF: How did your not for profit education organization, Lawmen Protecting Patients start?
NATE BRADLEY: When I first became a patient/advocate there were no resources/organizations out there designed to help law enforcement officers (LEO) make the cop-to-patient transition or help them network. After I finished the Prop 19 campaign I tracked down 8 other former LEO’s that had become MMJ patient/advocates and founded Lawmen Protecting Patients to fill that void. We have been growing ever since.
STUFF: You mentioned that your job led to daily panic attacks and that you were having trouble sleeping because of reoccurring nightmares. How did you deal with these prior to using marijuana? AND how does marijuana help?
NATE BRADLEY: Lot’s of different of pills. I was on over 13 different prescriptions over a 3-year period before I became a patient. When the pills wouldn’t work, which was a good portion of the time, I drank alcohol.
Besides helping me deal with my anxiety, MJ helps because it “calms my mind”. My entire life my brain has been a scattered mess, which made it hard to focus or complete tasks. I found that after a small dose I could sit down and stay on task better than any ADHD pill I was ever given.
STUFF: You are obviously benefiting from the medical use of marijuana. But, the federal government doesn’t recognize marijuana as medicine. Any thoughts?
NATE BRADLEY: It’s archaic…I compare the Feds position on MJ to a spoiled child with their fingers in their ear screaming “I don’t care what you say I want what I want”. The truth the government is this way with most issues. You can’t get pissed, you just gotta change it.
STUFF: How do you reconcile breaking federal law? Can you expect any extra punishment being a former officer?
NATE BRADLEY: It is what it is. It’s not my fault that the federal government is stuck in the dark ages when it comes to marijuana policy reform. Modern science has shown 20x over that MJ has medical uses. Honestly as long as I just push for policy reform and stay out of the “game” itself, I don’t expect to get screwed with.
STUFF: Have you experienced any retaliation for speaking out in favor of medical marijuana?
NATE BRADLEY: I have had a few cops that posted in newspaper comment sections that I was a traitor and things like that. But besides that, I have more friends in law enforcement now then I did when I was a cop. People have no idea how many cops have family members that have suffered from Cancer, MS and other painful diseases who use mmj.
Check out Nate’s New Book, The Medical Marijuana Survival Guide for more tips on how NOT to get busted and more insight into Nate’s journey from former police officer to marijuana activist.
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