Marijuana stories: Patients eager to come out of shadows when law passes
Ravaged by constant nausea and vomiting - the side effects from a clinical trial drug that was keeping her cancer at bay - Cindy Wright had rapidly lost more than 30 pounds.
A nurse at their Boston hospital had told them other patients were getting through their treatments by using cannabis - marijuana. Desperate, the Wrights decided to try it.
"It was just amazing. And she put the weight back on within a month and stabilized," he said. It's been two years, and "she's been stable ever since."
He co-sponsored the medical marijuana bill that is poised to become law, after both the House and Senate passed a compromise version late last month. Gov. Maggie Hassan has said she will sign the measure into law.
And once she does, the Wrights are among an unknown number of Granite Staters who will come out from the shadows of illegal drug use.
Dr. P. Thomas Harker, president of the Medical Society, told the New Hampshire Union Leader last month that "cannabis is an unproven therapy,'' and his organization was "very concerned about the risk of diversion and the message we send to the children and adolescents of New Hampshire about cannabis.''
He added: "Smoking marijuana is clearly bad for people's lungs.''
Lawmakers ruled out allowing patients to grow their own plants, something law enforcement and Hassan opposed. Instead, the state health department will supervise nonprofit "alternative treatment centers" - two initially - that will distribute the drug.
Still, he said he's "thrilled" that patients such as his wife will soon be able to obtain cannabis legally.
He wanted the home-grow option preserved. "If you grow your own, you have control," he said. "There are no pesticides or herbicides. The purity is there."
Darlene Wilson of Manchester has chronic pancreatitis, one of the "qualifying" conditions in the pending law. Her pancreas no longer functions properly to break down fats and proteins, so she struggles to maintain a proper weight.
"In the old days, they used to call it the wasting disease," she explained.
Wilson used to operate an interstate trucking business; she had to quit work when she became ill in the late 1990s. She depends on a morphine pump in her stomach to control her constant pain.
"The instantaneous relief that came from it was something to behold," she said.
"Walk through a cancer ward," she said. "Talk to people that use it. Listen to some people's stories.
"It is a wonderful medicine, and it can do a lot of good things for people and end a lot of suffering."
Here's what he wants people to understand: "For Cindy, it's been a matter of life and death."
"It was the cannabis that was keeping her on the trial and, frankly, may have saved her life," Wright said.
"We missed out on some things, but we've learned a lot about ourselves, and life," he said. "And we have a lot more compassion in everything we do."
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