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Mondovi Woman Leads Fight For Medical Marijuana


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If medical marijuana legislation ever gets passed in Wisconsin, it will bear the name of Jacki Rickert of Mondovi - "if" being the operative word.

"She's been an incredibly persistent pioneer. Her stamina amazes me," said Rep. Frank Boyle, D-Superior, who along with Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, introduced the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act at a news conference two weeks ago that went almost unnoticed.

A similar bill, which would have provided for the legal use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, died in committee in March 2006. So did bills in the 2003, 2001 and 1997 legislative sessions.

Boyle said increasing public awareness of the issue might make the fifth time a charm.

"I feel very sure that the state will finally come to its senses," Boyle said.

Boyle has been involved with Rickert and her cause for the last 14 years, even before her 210-mile wheelchair crusade in 1997 that took her to the state Capitol from the grave site of the Mondovi physician who first enrolled her in a now-defunct federal medical marijuana program.

"When I first met her, I was incredibly impressed with the sincerity of her cause," Boyle said.

As far back as high school, Rickert said, she has been suffering the debilitating effects of the genetic disorder Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and reflex sympathetic dystrophy. Both are chronic and incurable.

"(Doctors) don't know where one ends and the other beings," she said.

The ailments have left her in severe pain and confined to a wheelchair, and often to her modest, single-story home. Although she takes morphine for her pain, Rickert said marijuana saved her life.

"That we should deny marijuana for people like Jacki is unconscionable," Boyle said.

Rickert said when Dr. William Wright of Mondovi first tried to procure marijuana for her in 1990, she weighed 68 pounds. She said her then 19-year-old daughter, who was her constant and complete caregiver, told her that she looked as though she'd "just gotten out of a concentration camp."

Although she never received the 300 government-issued marijuana cigarettes that Wright had gone to great lengths to procure, she said, "cannabis angels" have supplied her "God-given medication" whenever she's needed it.

Boyle and Pocan's bill would allow patients with debilitating medical conditions to get marijuana, if authorized by their doctors. It provides a medical necessity defense for pot-related prosecutions and seizures, sets maximum allowable amounts, prohibits doctors acting in good faith from being arrested, and creates a marijuana-user registry.

Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, said he opposes legalizing medical marijuana.

"I've always opposed Boyle's medical marijuana bill because it would only serve to add a loophole for those who want to claim medical purposes for smoking pot," Suder said. "Many of those trying to get medical marijuana approval simply want to smoke pot."

Rickert said "nothing could be further from truth."

"My heart goes out to (Rickert), but I don't want to see her used as a tool to create an avenue for those who simply want to smoke pot," Suder said. "I'm not saying that marijuana won't help some people who are suffering, but other medicine provides that help as well."

Suder said the legislation is too vague and has too many loopholes, but that he could consider voting for a tighter version without loopholes.

The Democratic-sponsored bill does have bipartisan support. Rep. Jeff Wood, R-Chippewa Falls, supports medical marijuana.

"I agree with them 100 percent," Wood said, referring to Boyle and Pocan, adding he co-sponsors the bill every time it comes around.

He said there is existing bias against marijuana and that other opiate-based prescription pain killers are just as bad, if not worse, than marijuana.

"I think that it's a bias that dates to a generation previous to mine," Wood said.

Note: Democratic lawmakers hope law will get passed this time around.

News Moderator: CoZmO - 420 MAGAZINE ® - Medical Marijuana Publication & Social Networking
Source: Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, WI)
Author: Brad Bryan
Contact: brad.bryan@ecpc.com
Copyright: 2007 Eau Claire Press
Website: Leader-Telegram Online
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