I was sitting in a local restaurant a few days ago, enjoying a glass of wine with a few friends, when I felt the first twinge. The muscles in my left leg and my abdomen suddenly felt pulled tight, like something was yanking those muscles up and stretching them as far as they could stretch. The pain made me catch my breath and I waited for the spasm to pass.
The pain grew so intense that it felt like my muscles were being pulled from my body. My toes were yanked in separate directions; two toes went up, three were pulled down. My foot curved into the letter C. My abdomen was encased in cement. I couldn't breathe.
I knew what was happening, what was causing it, and I knew I had to get out of that restaurant. Fast. Because I knew it would only get worse. I turned to my friend and said, "We have to leave. Now."
I have MS. Multiple sclerosis (or MS) is a chronic, disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. What happened to me in the restaurant was something called spasticity.
Spasticity isn't simply a muscle spasm; it's the worst charley horse or muscle cramp you can imagine - magnified ten-fold and lasting hours.
There is medication that helps relax the muscles, but for me, those medications do not work quickly or, many times, effectively. What does work for me is cannabis.
I am not a pot head. I am a fifty-four year old woman living with a chronic, debilitating disease.
One of the articles on the special town meeting warrant is for a one-year moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries. John Hillier, a Shirley resident, plans to open Central Ave Compassionate Care, a regulated marijuana dispensary, at 31 Central Street. I hope you'll attend the meeting and vote NO on the moratorium.
Because medical marijuana is now legal (passed by voters last November), I, as a person with MS and with a recommendation from my physician, could cultivate my own marijuana. I don't want to grow marijuana. I don't want to smoke it. I want to go to a regulated, secure facility and obtain medication that I need in a form I can tolerate.
I visited 31 Central Street, the proposed location for Central Ave Compassionate Care, this week. I was impressed with John's plans for the site and the work he has done to ensure that CACC will be a medical facility similar to a pharmacy. It will be secure, locked, regulated, and NOT open to the general public. Patients using the dispensary will have to have a "Debilitating Medical Condition" meaning an illness like cancer, glaucoma, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease, or multiple sclerosis. To put it bluntly, sick people who need help.
I can understand some of the fears expressed by a few Ayer residents. There is an image that may pop into some folks' heads when they hear the word "marijuana" and that picture is apt to be one of a blissful hippy, a guitar in the background, brownies on the table and a bong on the floor. That is NOT an accurate picture of medical marijuana users - or the way they will use it. I am the face of the "average" patient: 54 years old, business woman and grandmother. I would not smoke pot; I would swallow a pill, just like I take most other medicines. And that word - medicine- is key. Marijuana is a drug, yes, but it is not a dirty word. It is medicine. More than 50% of medical marijuana patients are over the age of 55; all have a debilitating illness.
Central Ave Compassionate Care will not be a back-door to illegal drug use, rather, it will allow patients with life-limiting illnesses a safe, dignified way to get something that helps. My disease has taken much from me, but I fight it every step of the way. Sometimes I just need a little help. Medical marijuana would provide that.
I hope this letter helps you understand what a dispensary in this area would mean to someone like me. Please attend the meeting, June 24 at 7:00 p.m. If you'd like more information, visit www.CentralAveCare.org. There is an Open House at 31 Central Ave on Saturday at 1 pm; John will answer any questions you may have.