Robin Prosser didn’t look or sound much like a fighter, but she was. A mother and a musician, the Missoula woman also acted as Montana’s most outspoken advocate for medical marijuana, the only remedy that could ease the ravaging pain of the lupus-like immunosuppressive disease she endured for 23 years. Prosser’s fight ended Oct. 18 when she took her own life.
In recent months, Prosser, 50, would sit at the kitchen table in her small apartment, pain welling up in her eyes, and talk quietly about the victories and defeats the last several years had delivered. Allergic to nearly every pharmaceutical that could render her chronic pain bearable, she had learned that the political fate of medical marijuana also carried intensely personal implications.
She remained proud of the 60-day hunger strike she undertook in 2002 to draw attention to the need for medical marijuana, the effort that first brought her into the public eye. She spoke, too, of her 2004 agreement with the city of Missoula—when police charged her with marijuana possession following a thwarted suicide attempt—that deferred prosecution and allowed her to use marijuana before medical use was legalized.
During the subsequent campaign for medical marijuana, which won support from 62 percent of Montana voters, she became a literal poster child for the effort, appearing in campaign ads. And when the state issued her a medical marijuana ID card, things seemed to be looking up.
Then in March, federal Drug Enforcement Agency agents seized a small shipment of medical marijuana in transit from Prosser’s state-approved caregiver. Though she was never criminally charged, Prosser was crushed. She said caregivers became afraid to supply her with the medicine she needed so badly.
In July, she penned an op-ed piece in the Billings Gazette, pleading with Montana’s politicians and her fellow citizens to speak out against the DEA’s actions and improve the lives of people like her.
“Give me liberty or give me death,” she wrote. “Maybe the next campaign ought to be for assisted-suicide laws in our state. If they will not allow me to live in peace, and a little less pain, would they help me to die, humanely?”