Patient Can't Use Medical Marijuana

Patient Can't Use Medical Marijuana
Posted by CN Staff on August 25, 2005 at 08:00:50 PT
By Robin Palmer, Times Argus Staff 
Source: Rutland Herald
Burlington, Vermont -- Shayne Higgins needs a nursing home and medical marijuana to live more comfortably, but says he's been told he can't have both at the same time.According to Higgins, Burlington police seized marijuana he kept in his room at Starr Farm Nursing Center in Burlington earlier this year after someone from the nursing home called police. The drug was seized despite the fact that Higgins is a registered user of medical marijuana under the state's 2004 law.
Higgins, 44, suffers from multiple sclerosis. He was diagnosed in 1998 after developing a limp in his right leg."Then things started to get worse and I didn't know what was going on," said Higgins, who washed dishes in Burlington restaurants but now is out of work and can only move with the aid of a wheelchair.Until about a year ago, Higgins lived in a St. Paul Street apartment in Burlington and smoked marijuana in his apartment to help deal with the debilitating disease of the central nervous system."When I do smoke it, it kills lots of pain and it improves my appetite, because when you get stoned, you get the munchies," he said.Since moving into Starr Farm Nursing Center, Higgins had kept a single marijuana cigarette tucked away with some papers."I just had it and I wanted to eventually go outside somewhere and smoke it, but I never got that chance," Higgins said.Higgins said police rifled through his room until the officer found the drug and confiscated it.Burlington police did not provide information on the incident by press time."They didn't charge me with anything," said Higgins, who showed the officer his medical marijuana registration card that was issued in January. "But they took it (the marijuana) and said you can't have it here. They said I couldn't have it in the nursing home. They said it's against the law to have it at the nursing home."He added, "I didn't like it, but I didn't know what else to do."The nursing home issued a written statement late Wednesday:"As this situation was completely new to us, we contacted the Vermont Marijuana Registry and sought its guidance. A registry representative informed us that because our facility receives federal funds, and federal law prohibits the possession and use of marijuana, its possession and use in our facility is against the law, and therefore is strictly prohibited."The nursing center added, "At no time have we deviated from this position. Due to resident confidentiality, we are prohibited from commenting further."Under the 2004 state law, people who suffer from severe and persistent symptoms from diseases such as multiple sclerosis do qualify to use the drug and may possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana, two immature plants and one mature plant in a locked secure indoor space, but may not use the drug in public places, while operating a vehicle or heavy machinery, in a workplace or in a manner that endangers the health and well-being of another person.Rep. David Zuckerman, P-Burlington, who sponsored the bill that led to the law, said the law was not specific to a nursing home."There's nothing in the law that would make that illegal at all," he said. "There's also nothing in the law that says the nursing home has to allow it."Nineteen people statewide have been permitted to use marijuana under the law."I think it's very unfortunate for these select few people," Zuckerman said. "Clearly these individuals have crossed the threshold where organizations like the nursing home should make accommodations."Providing accommodations shouldn't be difficult for the nursing home, he said, noting that medical marijuana users typically just take a puff or two of the drug at a time."It raises a question whether we need to make adjustments to the law to increase the access to use for individuals who qualify," Zuckerman said.The Vermont Marijuana Policy Project is working to expand the state law.Statewide Organizer Nancy Lynch has visited Higgins. She said she's worried for his health and that police have no right to confiscate his marijuana cigarette because he is a registered user and the amount falls below the state's 2-once limit."They had no right to take his medicine," Lynch said. "He's very, very emaciated. He just wants to be able to use marijuana. It makes him able to eat."Since having his marijuana taken by police, Higgins, whose speech is slurred from his disease and who yawned with fatigue while speaking Wednesday, said he has not been able to get any more of the otherwise illegal drug."I can't find it any more," he said, noting that he can't walk. A friend gave him the marijuana that was taken by police, he said.Higgins said he doesn't know what he'll do going forward. He is hoping to move out of the nursing home and back into an apartment."I don't like being in the nursing home," he said.Most other residents there are older than he, and Higgins said he can live independently with some lesser help, such as with housework.Source: Rutland Herald (VT)Author: Robin Palmer, Times Argus Staff Published: August 25, 2005Copyright: 2005 Rutland HeraldContact: letters rutlandherald.comWebsite: http://www.rutlandherald.comRelated Article & Web Site:Vermont Marijuana Policy Project Patient Has The Right To Use Marijuana
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Comment #4 posted by boballen1313 on August 27, 2005 at 00:54:56 PT
What we need is transportation
THIS BLOKE NEEDS OUR HELP! Where is public transport? to at the very least take these souls to a safe place to medicate. If i was in a position to do so...ohoh thought about setting up a community friendly van...maybe with city approval...where the hell are the folks that voted for medical cannabis???
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on August 26, 2005 at 22:28:06 PT
Related Article from WCAX - TV
Medical Marijuana Patient Stripped of Drug August 25, 2005 Burlington, Vermont -- Shayne Higgins says he was diagnosed with MS in 1997 and last winter was placed here, in the Starr Farm nursing home. In January he applied for a medical marijuana card. But the card wasn't worth the plastic it's made out of when a nursing home employee found a marijuana joint and the police were called. "Police came in and they started going through my stuff and they found a little bit of marijuana that I had. I showed 'em my card but that didn't do any good. They just kept it and took off with it," says Higgins.The card is issued by the Vermont Marijuana Registry. But only nineteen of these have been issued. Exactly why Higgins' marijuana was confiscated remains unclear.Starr Farm says it checked with the Marijuana Registry and was told that since the nursing home receives federal funding, the federal law prohibiting the possession of marijuana applies in any circumstances.Public safety commissioner Kerry Sleeper was surprised to hear that. He says no one in his agency offered advice to the nursing home. "I need to make it very clear: the state of Vermont, the Department of Public Safety, did not provide information to Starr Farm Nursing Home that resulted in this person having their medication removed from them," says Sleeper.Advocates for Higgins and for medical marijuana say his rights were violated. Higgins is the first but probably not the last patient to find out that his card would not keep his pot from being confiscated. "You know, we suspected that something like this might happen eventually," says Nancy Lynch.Lynch heads the Vermont Marijuana Policy Project -- part of a nationwide lobby for more lenient marijuana laws -- notes that marijuana cards are limited to patients with the most serious diseases -- AIDS, MS and Cancer. She worries they too might lose their pot if they land in a nursing home. Higgins himself has no recourse."I can't just go out and find it. I don't know where to get it any more," says Higgins.Starr Farm nursing home declined comment other than a press release claiming it turned to the Vermont Marijuana Registry for guidance. Public Safety commissioner Kerry Sleeper says that guidance did not include any recommendation that the nursing home prevent the use of medical marijuana in its facility.So the question remains whether in fact there are any restrictions on using medical marijuana in federally-funded institutions.We don't have a conclusive answer at this point. However, law enforcement officials do make it clear that marijuana use is still illegal as far as the federal government is concerned -- even for people on the medical marijuana registry.Andy Potter - Channel 3 NewsCopyright: 2005 WorldNow and WCAX
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Comment #2 posted by sam adams on August 26, 2005 at 18:02:31 PT
this is ridiculous
Vermont police have no right to take medical marijuana anywhere in the state. What a total BS pretense - what are they trying to say - anything receiving federal funds is now part of "federal USA", sort of like an Indian reservation? 1984 is here. Even churches get federal money now. This has got to be grounds for a lawsuit. They came into a medical facility & took the man's medicine. No way VT cops are still allowed to do that.
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Comment #1 posted by Jim Lunsford on August 25, 2005 at 08:46:08 PT
Thanks for saving us from ourselves once again! Now he can get such "proper" treatment as vioxx, or some other such FDA approved medicine. That way, we citizens can sleep easy knowing that our "health" is taken care of by such a humanitarian government agency as the FDA! Is it just me, or does the word sell-out come to mind whenever anyone else thinks of our government. Or, more correctly, the corporation's government. Rev. Jim
Have you planted your vote on the courthouse today?
Free yourself! Wage peace with the seed
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