This is a speech given at the 2009 Des Moines Iowa Board of Pharmacy hearing on medical marijuana. Entire speech as transcribed by court reporter seen here on pages 106-115.
All I have is a story. It’s not a story about me. It’s a story about my son.
I would prefer and perhaps you would prefer that my son were able to tell his own story, but I think by the time I’m done, you’ll understand why we thought perhaps I should tell it.
Usually when I tell this story, even in the privacy of my own home – for instance, last night when I was practicing – I cry…
My son, Cane Lennon Richardson, was born on June 13, 1981. It was not a Friday. Shortly after birth, Cane began having seizures. He was rushed to neonatal intensive care where he spent the first ten days of his life. I stayed with him in the hospital the entire time, and his mother stayed at home taking care of the older three children.
Cane’s seizures were so mild, all I ever saw was a very slight twitching of the little finger on his left hand. When Cane was discharged, he was on Tegretol. Tegretol is a brand name for carbamazepine, a word I never learned to pronounce…
For the next 12 or 13 years, Cane was entirely seizure-free. Then one night when he was 12 or 13 years old, Cane had a violent seizure…
He was discovered by one of his brothers and rushed to the hospital…
Almost a year later Cane had his second seizure. This time he was with me. It occurred in the middle of the night right after I had gone to bed, and I consider myself lucky to have heard the noise that he made during the seizure.
We rushed him to the hospital. Sitting in the waiting room, thinking everything was now under control, I heard the emergency-room doctor say “Open that freaking cabinet. We’re losing him…”
You can imagine the terror that struck me upon hearing those words…
Almost one year to the day, Cane had his third life-threatening seizure and was rushed to the hospital to be saved. This time his mother approved Tegretol for his epilepsy.
I never know quite how to describe Cane. A parent always has a hard time admitting their children are below average. Let me just say this. In standardized tests, Cane’s older sister consistently scores in the top 5 percent. Cane consistently scores in the bottom 5 percent.
Of course, Cane has many positive attributes not shared with his sister. He’s an excellent bowler. He can run without soliciting laughter, and he has a sense of rhythm. And in this case, exactly like his sister, Cane is a very hard and cheerful worker.
Nevertheless, I think you will know what I mean when I say Cane needs more help finding his way in the world than his sister does. Not help from the government – but help from his friends and family. Fortunately, Cane makes friends easily, and he has a lot of family.
After graduation from high school, it took Cane more than a few months to find a good job. A friend eventually helped him get hired at a concrete factory. It is hard, dirty work, but it is a Teamster shop, and the pay is excellent.
Cane worked in that factory for about five years. He was a hard worker, greatly appreciated by his bosses. He was a solid member of the working class, although perhaps a bit thriftier than average. He accumulated over $20,000 in his IRA. He owned his own house, and other than his mortgage, he had zero debt.
Just yesterday Cane told me that he slept 12 straight hours on Monday this week. Frequently – excuse me. Typically Tegretol also decreases a person’s alcohol tolerance. It is painful for me to watch Cane drink alcohol. He quickly turns into a happy drunk, spouting nonsense in a very loud voice, unlike me who quickly turns into a happy drunk spouting wisdom in a very loud voice.
Cane himself does not enjoy these two side effects. He would like to wake up before half the day is gone. He would like to share a couple beers with his coworkers without turning into a slobbering drunk.
Cane has also smoked marijuana before, as did roughly half the students in his high school class, and thanks primarily to his mother and certainly not to me, he is aware that marijuana might control his epilepsy. I will present the board with three medical studies which suggest exactly that.
Of course, Cane cannot speak to his doctor about marijuana for fear of arrest, so the bulk of his medical advice comes from his marijuana-smoking friends who appear underqualified for this important task.
Of course, using marijuana to treat his epilepsy also has a negative side effect. Cane is subject to arrest and incarceration. One year ago Cane had a minor workplace accident, completely unrelated to his work. He was helping move a Pepsi vending machine.
He was not injured in any way, but because he experienced temporary back pain, one of his coworkers insisted he go to the hospital to make sure workers’ compensation covered it. At the hospital his urine tested positive for marijuana. His was a day job requiring him to begin heavy labor at seven in the morning. Getting stoned was the last thing on his mind…
Unfortunately for Cain, urine will test positive for marijuana for up to 30 days. Clever people know how to avoid this problem, but Cane is not clever. He is just an epileptic who is dissatisfied with his current medication and would like to try something that might work better for him.
Unfortunately again, Cane cannot get the help of qualified medical professionals to see if marijuana will work better for him. He is forced to run his own experiments.
Furthermore, he is forced to buy marijuana of uncertain quality at inflated prices from criminals, and in fact, he is forced to be a criminal himself.
One year after losing his job, my son Cane is still unemployed. He could no longer make his mortgage payments and was forced to sell his house at a deep loss. His IRA is decimated…
He is essentially homeless, sleeping on the couch in my garage or at his mother’s house every night. He is depressed and severely lacking in self-confidence. Does this surprise you?
If Cane were allowed to use medical marijuana legally – I’m wrapping up – the end of the story would be much happier. Medical marijuana may or it may not work to control his epilepsy. He and his doctor could figure that out.
His union would not have allowed him to be fired. He would still have a house, and he would still be proud of his participation in this wonderful society…
Must children be fired and be arrested and fathers plead in vain? Legalize medical marijuana.
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