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Confiscated Mj Described as Medicine

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Mar. 14, 00
Journal Sentinel
By Meg Jones (Journal Sentinel Staff )
Ailing Mondovi woman now fears criminal charges...
Jacki Rickert freely admits she smokes marijuana. The 48-year-old Mondovi woman, who uses a wheelchair because of debilitating illness, said marijuana helps her cope with excruciating pain. Now, she could be facing drug charges after Mondovi police on Tuesday searched her home and confiscated marijuana and drug paraphernalia that Rickert said she needs for medicinal purposes.
The incident began when Rickert called police to report the theft of morphine from her home. When an officer came to her home about 11:30 p.m. Monday, Rickert admitted there was marijuana inside, so the officer got a search warrant and returned at 3 a.m. Tuesday. Police left her home about seven hours later. "I was stunned. I don't think I'm a criminal," Rickert said by telephone Tuesday afternoon.
Mondovi Police Chief Terry Pittman said Rickert was not arrested but could face drug charges. Reports of the incident will be turned over by the end of the week to the Buffalo County district attorney, who will decide whether charges will be filed.
In the meantime, Rickert said, she is devastated by the search of her home and the possibility she could end up in court. She suffers from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a connective tissue disorder, and reflex sympathetic dystrophy. She has lost much of her muscle and fatty tissue, and her joints dislocate easily, her daughter said. "She's terrified," said her daughter, Tammy, 28. "They've gone through her whole house and treated her like a criminal. She's just trying to maintain a certain quality of life. She doesn't sell marijuana; it's her medicine."
Rickert said that in the early 1990s, she was allowed to participate in a program in which the federal government issued marijuana cigarettes for medicinal purposes. But the program folded before she received marijuana from the government, she said. Marijuana's active ingredients belong to a chemical family called cannabinoids, which studies and clinical results suggest are useful for control of chronic pain, relief of nausea and vomiting, and stimulation of appetite in people who, like Rickert, have lost weight because of diseases. Rickert is able to live on her own but relies on caregivers for help. Her only income is from monthly disability payments; her medications, which include morphine and muscle relaxants, are paid for through Medicaid. She wonders how she will pay for a lawyer if criminal charges are filed. "Let's just say at the end of the month, a lot of times people eat Hamburger Helper. Well, sometimes it's 'Helper Helper,' " she said.
Pittman, who did not know how much marijuana was seized, said he is aware that Rickert told officers she smoked the drug to cope with pain. But he pointed out that possession of marijuana is against the law. "It's still illegal. This officer had a job to do, and that's what she did," said Pittman, who has been chief for 12 years. "By the person even admitting there was marijuana, police officers had a job to do, and it's going to take somebody higher up than me to legalize it."
Mae Nutt, a friend of Rickert's and an outspoken advocate of medicinal use of marijuana, said there are misconceptions about patients who smoke pot to relieve nausea and pain. "People think that they're getting high, but that's not true," said Nutt, who lost two sons to cancer. Those who use marijuana for medicinal purposes "are just ordinary plain people like Jacki," Nutt said. Before Rickert began smoking marijuana - she prefers the term cannabis - she weighed 68 pounds. She now weighs 98 pounds and uses marijuana to relieve chronic pain and give her an appetite. "When you weigh 68 pounds, your quality of life is pretty rotten. My daughter used to have to carry me around piggyback from room to room," Rickert said. "I don't abuse cannabis. I use it as I would any other of my medications. It's just that this one was created by God and not a big moneymaker for big, greedy corporations, so that's where the illegality comes in."