The grandmother of Montana's medical marijuana movement, Lori Burnam, died at home in Hamilton on Jan. 10. She was 66.
The diminutive Burnam, who stood just 5-foot-3, weighed less than 65 pounds when she testified in Helena District Court last month about how Montana's new medical marijuana law threatened her supply of cannabis. She referred to the drug as the only one that eased her pain and left no negative side effects.
"It did help a lot, a tremendous amount," says her ex-husband, Larry Burnam, who helped care for Lori during the last months of her life.
Lori Burnam's testimony in district court speaks to the toughness of the woman who was diagnosed with lung cancer roughly six years ago. Morphine made her incoherent and the steroids doctors prescribed gave her nightmares. Instead, Burnam, who also had emphysema, ingested marijuana with a vaporizer or through liquid tinctures. She said it relaxed her knotted muscles and stimulated her appetite. "In that sense alone, it helped sustain her," Larry Burnam says.
Though she lost an eye to glaucoma about five years ago and the cancer would spread to her bones, Burnam continued to tote her oxygen tanks to interviews, pro-cannabis rallies and into courtrooms to tout marijuana's ameliorating effects. For Burnam, the cause became a crusade of sorts.
"She was physically tough and really, really tough emotionally," says medical marijuana advocate Tom Daubert, who was featured with Burnam in the documentary film, Code of the West, detailing the rise and fall of Montana's medical marijuana industry.
Katrina Farnum from Garden Mother Herbs befriended Burnam while serving as her marijuana provider and says she didn't come across as the typical marijuana advocate. For that reason, Burnam's testimony seemed to resonate among people who might otherwise be repelled by marijuana's lingering cultural and legal taboos.
"She really knocked down those walls for people," Farnum says. "She really wanted to help break down those stereotypes."