William Breathes's South by Southwest (mis)adventures

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A few months back, we here at Mile Highs and Lows begged and pleaded for you to help convince the folks at the South By Southwest Interactive Conference in Austin, Texas to let us talk about marijuana journalism at what is arguably the most important media conference in America. Thanks to you, we got an invite. But things didn't go as planned.

While being a qualified medical marijuana dispensary critic can be a great gig, I have always maintained that it comes with a price: poor health. While I definitely appreciate my fine ganja, I really do battle some major health issues that affect my day-to-day life and easily qualify me as an MMJ patient in Colorado. That was very apparent this past weekend at SXSW.

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SXSW music, which starts later this week, is the more well-known event, but the Interactive conference that kicked off Saturday brought more than 15,000 media nerds to the Texas hill country for five days of tech-filled blogging bliss. Instead of band posters, street-team members placed signs around town for web-development teams, iPhone apps and cloud-computing systems. It's a big deal, and this year, Westword was given the chance to talk about our award-winning medical marijuana coverage on a panel titled "Big Business: The Future of Marijuana Journalism." Westword sent me to Austin early to hang fliers and get a good buzz going about the upcoming event, which was slated for Sunday night. Westword editor Patricia Calhoun was to fly in that day so she could introduce a disguised version of me to the masses.

For the first few days, the convention went great (aside from the rain), and Mile Highs and Lows handed out hundreds of "William Breathes" joint cases. I even got to catch the premiere of Degenerate Art, an amazing documentary on glass blowing produced by famous artists Marble Slinger.

But the day of our presentation brought with it an unexpected twist.

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Some of the leading gastroenterologist in the country have been working with me of late -- running tests to narrow down the cause of my stomach flare-ups. So far, though, they have yet to come up with an answer. In the two and a half years I've has been writing about marijuana for Westword, I have also been hospitalized countless times.

And Sunday was one of them. After a fajita dinner at the famous Guero's restaurant on Saturday night, I went home early to puff some of Austin's finest and rest up for the Sunday presentation. But around 4 a.m., I woke up with shooting stomach cramps and doubled over in pain. Within an hour, I was fighting off the crippling nausea and vomiting symptoms that accompany my condition, and by 6 a.m. I'd checked myself into an Austin emergency room, where I was fed Zofran, Phenegren and morphine through an IV tube for the next ten hours.

Needless to say, I didn't make the presentation. But Calhoun did, using the video presentation I had crafted to run the crowd through a history of marijuana in Colorado, display some of our MMJ reviews and investigative work (including my THC blood test), and offer apologies for my non-appearance -- which at least proved that some MMJ patients really are legit, she noted.

So to all of you who got me to South By Southwest, I am forever grateful. Next year, we'll get back down there and fog out the convention center.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana critic William Breathes on being interviewed by... CNN?"

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