Pubdate: Mon, 25 Mar 2013
Source: Arizona Daily Star (Tucson, AZ)
Copyright: 2013 Arizona Daily Star
Author: A. Melvin McDonald
Note: A. Melvin McDonald practices law in the Phoenix area.


I was a prosecutor with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office from 
1970 to 1974.

I served seven years as a Maricopa County Superior Court judge.

In 1981, I was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to serve as U.S. 
attorney. The top priority of my office from 1981 to 1985 was 
fighting the drug war.

It would be natural to assume that I would oppose Arizona's 
voter-approved medical-marijuana law, which allows people with 
certain medical conditions to have access to medical marijuana 
through state-licensed regulated dispensaries. But sometimes it takes 
extraordinary circumstances to get people to see ordinary truths.

So here is my story.

In August of 1997, my 14-year-old son was hit by a car and thrown 125 
feet across a busy intersection in Gilbert. He sustained severe and 
permanent brain damage. After the near-fatal accident, the brain 
injury evolved into frequent and massive epileptic seizures. These 
seizures have been regular occurrences for the past 16 years. His 
condition has been evaluated and treated by top experts from the UCLA 
Medical Center to the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale to the Barrow 
Neurological Institute in Phoenix.

In 2003, the seizure condition became so severe that my wife and I 
and our son agreed to have a portion of his brain removed in the hope 
that might stop his agony. We were told it had two-thirds chance of 
success. Unfortunately, we ended up in the one-third - the surgery 
failed to stop the seizures.

In the early years following the accident and onset of the seizures, 
my son was in a state of constant nausea and would go days at a time 
without eating. The seizures would make him severely nauseous, and 
the medications prescribed to treat epilepsy caused severe nausea as 
side effects. Nothing worked, not even the prescription drug Marinol. 
His weight dropped from 180 pounds to 119 pounds. He felt better 
starving than eating.

Then a friend with severe pain issues gave him some marijuana, which 
proved to be the only substance that would curtail the nausea. This 
was prior to Arizona's medical marijuana law.

So there I was - the man appointed by President Reagan to head the 
drug war in Arizona - with pot being used to help my son have some 
semblance of quality of life.

My wife had to be resourceful to gain access to marijuana. The choice 
for her was brutally harsh - find ways to give your son life-saving 
marijuana so he could eat and diminish the nausea knowing that her 
loving help for our son could potentially result in criminal prosecution.

When Arizona voters approved medical marijuana in 2010, our family 
rejoiced. Now my wife and son are faced with the possibility of 
returning to the underground, to those days of uncertainty, his 
medical purgatory, a hellish quality of life. There are efforts in 
the Legislature to undermine the medical-marijuana law with overly 
broad police powers. Some have even said they want to re-vote and 
repeal the measure. To those behind these efforts I say, come and see 
and speak with our family and my son. Tell him there are no benefits.

We are here and we will use our voices to fight for people like my 
son. Because to take away my son's medical marijuana would be like 
taking insulin away from a Type 1 diabetic. Reform the system where 
it should be, but do not criminalize the behavior of my wife, other 
mothers and fathers, or patients, who seek only to use the one plant 
that gives them some quality of life. That would be the real crime.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom