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Bennett Black Needs Marijuana to Live. John Kavanagh Wants to Take It Away from Him.

medical marijuana

I read something just now that makes my blood boil:

It starts the minute he wakes up and puts his feet on the floor. The nausea quickly builds from the base of his stomach to the back of his throat and he tries to think mind over matter but matter generally wins and this is just the beginning of the day. The really hard time, he would tell you, comes later in the afternoon, when he must force down the pills he needs to stay alive and hope they stay down. Food? The thought of it makes him gag and this goes on day after week after year. His parents wonder whether he can survive it. So far, in 14 years, Bennett Black has only found one thing that eases the nausea enough so that he can eat, so that he can live.

That’s marijuana.

Now there’s a move afoot to repeal the medical marijuana law that Arizona voters have approved three times now. Bennett Black’s father is hoping the Legislature will take a pass on [state Representative John] Kavanagh’s bill to put repeal on the 2014 ballot.

Back in 1997, when Bennett was 14, he was hit by a car while riding a Go-Ped. This caused brain trauma that led to life-threatening grand mal seizures so severe that the best specialists in the nation haven’t been able to totally stop them despite many years, treatments, and surgeries. The anti-seizure pills he takes do cut down on the number of seizures, but at the heavy price of a constant nausea that renders eating virtually impossible and his waking life a living hell. Frankly, I’m amazed he didn’t give up years ago.

The only reason he’s able to eat at all is because a couple of years after the accident, after Bennett went from 180 pounds to 114 pounds because he couldn’t get, much less keep, anything down long enough for it to be absorbed into his body, a sympathetic neighbor with neck problems suggested to his mother Cindy that he try marijuana. It was a godsend. It allowed him a brief period each day to have a fighting chance to eat — and, more importantly, to digest — enough nourishment to stay alive.

There were a couple of problems with this treatment. One was that it was illegal to use pot, even for medicinal purposes, at the time that Bennett first tried marijuana. The other was that Bennett’s father is former U.S. Attorney Mel McDonald, a Reagan appointee who enforced and even helped set Reagan-era policies in the War on Some Drugs. The family had to live a strangely bifurcated existence: Cindy procured the weed, Bennett consumed it — and Mel, the U.S. Attorney, made a point of staying well out of sight on both sets of occasions, so he wouldn’t be witness to something he would have to consider as a crime even as it saved his son’s life. The advent of legalized medicinal marijuana has enabled the family to have something more closely resembling a normal state, and Mel McDonald’s attitude towards medicinal marijuana has done a 180-degree turn, as he’s seen how it’s helped his own son. But they now face the possibility of being forced back into the shadows again because of Rep. John Kavanagh’s bill to put repeal of medicinal marijuana on the Arizona ballot.

Why does Kavanagh want to repeal the state’s medicinal marijuana law? Because he apparently thinks that the people taking advantage of it are all plain old recreational dopers and that no real doctor would actually approve of it: “No medical authority would say it’s helping you. They all say it’s harming you.” As anyone who’s studied the medical marijuana debate for more than five minutes knows, this is a lie; there are many, many studies done by many, many doctors and scientists showing the efficacy of marijuana as an anti-emetic, among other things.

Bennett Black needs marijuana to live. John Kavanagh wants to take it away from him. It’s as simple as that.

Photo by Dank Depot under Creative Commons license

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