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ACLU Provides Forum On Pain And Marijuana

Rocky Balboa

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A previously unidentified Dillon man, whose trailer was raided by Drug Enforcement Administration agents last month, spoke on behalf of medical marijuana Saturday at the DoubleTree Hotel as part of the American Civil Liberties Union Montana chapter's annual conference.

The seminar, called "Pain as a Civil Liberties Issue," aimed to raise awareness among patients, physicians and the Missoula community about the fear and legal issues doctors and patients face when considering the use of marijuana to manage pain.

Scott Day, who is terminally ill, was front and center at the conference just one month after the DEA's Southwest Montana Drug Task Force raided his home and reported they confiscated 96 marijuana plants. Day has not been charged in the incident.

For the last 12 years, Day said, he has managed unthinkable chronic pain - the result of a degenerative congenital condition called mucopolysaccharidosis - with marijuana.

"It's debilitating," Day said. "It hurts so much and right now I'm without access to pain management that was working," he said.

The 34-year-old Day said he suffers arthritis, muscle spasms, joint inflammation and pain, disintegrated spinal discs, cataracts and glaucoma as a result of the disease that often proves fatal in childhood.

"Without marijuana my muscles hurt. Everything hurts," Day said of the weeks he's spent without marijuana since the bust.

Tom Daubert, founder and director of Patients & Families United, said the group was invited to put on the seminar by the ACLU.

Patients & Families United helped draft legislation that became Montana's Medical Marijuana Act back in 2004. Voters approved by a wide margin the law that allows people to use marijuana to relieve the pain of qualifying medical conditions.

Daubert said there are about 634 Montanans in 34 counties in Montana who are registered medical marijuana patients, based on recommendations from 145 physicians statewide.

However, Scott Day said he never registered out of fear of persecution.

Current Montana law doesn't require a medical marijuana user to register with the state, but paves a smoother road for those who do, Daubert said.

Daubert said he thinks Day will be protected under the law if he is charged with a crime, because of the way the law is written. "With a legal problem, all you need is for a doctor to agree that your condition existed prior to any arrest, and that the benefits outweigh the risks," he said.

However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that even in states that had legalized the use of medical marijuana, drug agents could arrest sick people. About a year ago, DEA agents seized less than a half-ounce of marijuana sent by a registered Flathead County caregiver to Robin Prosser of Missoula. Prosser was never charged in the case.

Prosser killed herself in October, saying she couldn't tolerate the pain of her immunosuppressive disorder.

"These are the only patients required to break federal law every day and make their own medicine. They need to be left alone," Daubert said.

People can successfully argue that the amounts they possess are the amounts they need, despite the law allowing users possession of just six marijuana plants and one ounce of harvested product, Daubert said. People don't realize that there are "infinite varieties" of marijuana plants that treat different symptoms, he said.

Scott Day said what frustrates him is that all his plants represented 12 years of research, growing and cultivating strains of cannabis that addressed individual symptoms of his particular disease. Now, they're gone.

"Contrary to what they believed," Day said, "I wasn't producing a cash crop, I was producing a medicinal crop."

Source: Missoulian
Author: Lori Grannis, of the Missoulian
Copyright: 2008 Missoulian
Website: Missoulian: News and Resources for Western Montana
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