Message from a Patient
I was sitting in a local restaurant a few days ago, enjoying a glass of wine with my husband and a few friends, when I felt the first twinge. The muscles in my left leg and my abdomen suddenly felt pulled tight, like something was yanking those muscles up and stretching them as far as they could stretch. The pain made me catch my breath and I waited for the spasm to pass.
The pain grew so intense that it felt like my muscles were being pulled from my body. My toes were yanked in separate directions; two toes went up, three were pulled down. My foot curved into the letter C. My abdomen was encased in cement. I couldn’t breathe.
I knew what was happening, what was causing it, and I knew I had to get out of that restaurant. Fast. Because I knew it would only get worse. I turned to my husband and said, “We have to leave. Now.”
I have MS. Multiple sclerosis (or MS) is a chronic, disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. What happened to me in the restaurant was something called spasticity.
Spasticity isn’t simply a muscle spasm; it’s the worst charley horse or muscle cramp you can imagine – magnified ten-fold and lasting hours.
There is medication that helps relax the muscles, but for me, those medications do not work quickly or, many times, effectively. What does work for me is cannabis.
I am not a pot head. I am a fifty-four year old woman living with a chronic, debilitating disease. I am not a hippy. I am a businesswoman and writer. I am not a stoner. I am a wife, mother and grandmother. And I am someone who is asking you, as an Ayer resident, to attend the Special Town Meeting on Monday, June 24.
One of the articles on the special town meeting warrant is for a one-year moratorium on marijuana for medical use dispensaries. John Hillier, a Shirley resident, plans to open Central Ave Compassionate Care, a regulated marijuana dispensary, at 31 Central Street. I hope you’ll attend the meeting and vote NO on the moratorium.
Because marijuana for medical use is now legal (passed by voters last November), I, as a person with MS and with a recommendation from my physician, could cultivate my own marijuana. I don’t want to grow marijuana. I don’t want to smoke it. I want to go to a regulated, secure facility and obtain medication that I need in a form I can tolerate.
I visited 31 Central Street, the proposed location for Central Ave Compassionate Care, this week. I was impressed with John’s plans for the site and the work he has done to ensure that CACC will be a marijuana for medical use dispensary similar to a pharmacy. It will be secure, locked, regulated, and NOT open to the general public. Patients using the dispensary will have to have a “Debilitating Medical Condition” meaning an illness like cancer, glaucoma, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or multiple sclerosis. To put it bluntly, sick people who need help.
I can understand some of the fears expressed by a few Ayer residents. There is an image that likely pops into some folks’ heads when they hear the word “marijuana” and that picture is apt to be one of a blissful hippy, a guitar in the background, brownies on the table and a bong on the floor. That is NOT an accurate picture of marijuana for medical purpose users – or the way they will use it. I am the face of the “average” patient: 54 years old, professional, wife, mother, grandmother. I would not smoke pot; I would swallow a pill, just like I take most other medicines. And that word – medicine– is key. Marijuana is a drug, yes, but it is not a dirty word. It is medicine. More than 50% of marijuana for medical use patients are over the age of 55; all have a debilitating illness.
Central Ave Compassionate Care will not be a back-door to illegal drug use, rather, it will allow patients with life-limiting illnesses a safe, dignified way to get something that helps. My disease has taken much from me, but I fight it every step of the way. Sometimes I just need a little help. Marijuana for medical use would provide that.
I hope this letter helps you understand what a dispensary in this area would mean to someone like me. Please attend the meeting, June 24 at 7:00 p.m. If you’d like more information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch, or visit www.CentralAveCare.org. There is an Open House at 31 Central Ave on Saturday at 1 pm; John will answer any questions you may have. And if you don’t mind, please share this email with any other Ayer residents.
Message from a Parent
I am an 18-year Ayer resident and father of a 27-year-old son who is a two-time cancer survivor. I write to ask you to oppose the proposed moratorium on marijuana for medical purpose and allow the plan for a regulated marijuana for medical purpose dispensary at 31 Central Avenue to move forward.
My son was diagnosed with a Malignant Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumor (MPNST) in April of 2011. He underwent three weeks of high-energy radiation and three weeks of proton radiation followed by surgery. Pathology showed that the tumor was a rare Malignant Triton Tumor (MTT) and chemotherapy was necessary to complete the initial treatment.
During the first two months of chemotherapy, my son lost 25% of his body weight, going from 200 lbs. to 150 lbs. His mental health diminished as he lost hair and body weight. Soon, depression set in. The oncologist suggested in private that I might provide him with marijuana to help improve his appetite as well as alleviate other side effects. I had heard through the years that this has been effective for cancer patients, so I agreed to give it a try. Within a month, my son had regained 20 lbs. He was able to better cope with the treatment regimen and his overall disposition improved. It wasn’t a perfect fix, but it was a dramatic improvement.
Marijuana for medical use has helped him deal with the post-traumatic stress of his continuing treatment and subsequent recurrence. One can only imagine the anxiety he goes through while fighting this disease. As his parent and primary caregiver, I can attest marijuana used for medical purposes works.
As Mr. John Hillier works to get his project, Central Ave Compassionate Care Inc., up and running, I have to see this as a positive initiative for several reasons.
1) There is a legitimate demand for medicinal marijuana
2) The voters of the commonwealth of Massachusetts approve of the need for this product (by a nearly 2-to-1 majority)
3) Someone is going to have to meet this demand
Mr. Hillier proposes a non-profit organization for the production and dispensing of marijuana for medical use within all of the approved state regulations. As a non-profit, any profits generated by the sale of the product will be returned to the community to be used as it wishes. I see this as a win-win for the Town of Ayer.
One only has to read newspapers and magazines to see a growing trend (no pun intended). There are corporations, venture capitalists, and private investors looking to generate profits from providing marijuana for medical use to patients who demonstrate a need. Whether some people like it or not, someone is going to meet this demand! We can put the money in the Town’s pocket or we can watch it go to shareholders who could not care less about our community. With that in mind, I feel the moratorium is counter productive, and I am against it.
Larry D. Thomas Sr.