Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo recently announced that within a year, New York State will have its medical marijuana program in place. For a while now, we have been hearing from parents desperate to gain access to medical marijuana to help their children suffering from seizure disorders, glaucoma patients and those with chronic pain.
The potential for relief from any number of ailments is real and within our grasp. Medical marijuana has proven to be a successful treatment option for hundreds of documented cases throughout the states that have legalized its use.
My family’s story is similar, but with a bit of a twist. My son was diagnosed with a rare form of spina bifida (Arnold-Chiari Syndrome) some 20-plus years ago. He was a high school athlete, smart, handsome and strong at 18 years of age with his whole life ahead of him. One day I reminded him to stand up straight and hold his shoulders back. He replied, “It hurts to do that, Dad.” So began his journey.
After consultation with a neurologist, he began a series of operations on his brain and spine that left him with extremely limited use of his right arm and left leg and chronic pain. Not the kind of pain that Advil takes away, but screaming, disabling pain that makes it difficult to stand every single day. Life as we knew it was over. Never again would he play sports, run or throw a ball.
It was then that he began taking the pain pills he needed to get through the day. These opiates relieve pain, but ultimately control every aspect of your life. You can’t miss a dosage or a whole different “sickness” takes over. Welcome to addiction. He managed pain over the years with a combination of medication and physical therapy. Eventually, like so many chronic pain sufferers, the medication was not enough and he began using heroin. It worked, but it is not a pleasant way to go through life.
I won’t repeat the stories – you’ve heard them all. Arrests, overdoses, depression, sleepless nights as a parent waiting for that call that would someday come. The call telling you your child is in jail, the hospital or dead. He eventually stopped the heroin, but still needed the opiate medication.
My son moved to Las Vegas about eight months ago to make use of medical marijuana to control his pain. He had been trying to find a way to escape the need for opiates. I’m happy to say he has been free of addiction for more than a year now.
This brings us to today. His mother, my first wife and high school love, is dying of lung cancer. By the time you read this, she may have already passed. My son needs to come home to say goodbye and honor her memory at a service. As soon as he gets off the plane in New York, he will be a criminal again. He will either need opiate medication or marijuana to manage his pain.
What is my role in this homecoming? Do I try to find him weed? Do I condone its use in my home, with my wife and young teenage children? I don’t know what I am going to do, and I don’t know what he is going to do. I truly wish this was something he didn’t have to worry about during the difficult time ahead.
I urge the politicians, medical professionals and parents to speed their efforts to get viable alternatives to opiate addiction and remedies for the myriad of other ailments that cause suffering for the citizens of New York. Truly, the time is now.