Sheriff’s commentsanger medical pot user
By Greg MasséPost Independent StaffA legitimate medical marijuana user said he takes offense to Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario’s statements decrying the use of pot for medical conditions.Jeff, 44, a Glenwood resident, is HIV positive, and has hepatitis C and heart disease. The Post Independent is withholding Jeff’s last name to keep his medical conditions personal. Jeff said he uses medical marijuana to give himself back the appetite he lost as an effect of hepatitis C. He contacted the Post Independent after reading a story in which Vallario said he’s not convinced there is a legitimate need for medical marijuana. “I was a little insulted. I’d sure like to meet that Vallario,” Jeff said.Vallario said he thinks possession of marijuana should be a felony-level offense. He also said he’s not convinced that sick people “have to smoke marijuana to solve things.””I think there should be another way. I think there are people who abuse that for their own personal drug usage,” Vallario said in the recent story.Vallario was commenting on the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team arrest of four people for growing pot in their Rifle home. The suspects said they are on Colorado’s medical marijuana registry and were growing the pot legally. Police say the suspects far exceeded the limit on how many plants could be grown. Jeff said he’s not gay, has never slept with a man and has never used a drug needle. He said he’s a professional businessman with a family who contracted HIV from a woman in Seattle several years ago. Jeff’s lack of appetite, which was actually caused by the hepatitis rather than HIV, caused his body to shrink from 155 pounds down to 119 pounds. He first tried Marinol – a derivative of marijuana’s tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, that comes in pill form – but that didn’t work. Next his doctor had him try megestrol acetate as an appetite stimulant. “It did seem to have a small effect,” he said. But it wasn’t enough. “It’s really hard to explain, when you feel hungry, but you don’t want to chew the food or swallow it,” Jeff said of his appetite loss. “Your system rejects wanting to swallow it. It’s frustrating because you’re hungry.”Jeff said when his doctor first suggested using marijuana as an appetite stimulant, he laughed.”I’m not a drug addict, I’m not a pothead, it’s just not my style,” he said. But once he began using pot, mostly by baking it into cookies, he gained 36 pounds in three months, going from 119 pounds to 155 pounds. Jeff said he normally bakes it into cookies because that method of ingesting the pot stimulates his appetite without getting him “stoned.”But sometimes the lack of appetite that he’s trying to fix with the pot keeps him from being able to eat the cookie. That’s when he has to ingest it in some other way. Even with HIV, hepatitis C and heart disease, Jeff said he’s feeling healthy. All of his medical problems are relatively under control, something he partially credits to his marijuana use. “I would not be in the good health situation I’m in now if it weren’t for it,” he said. He said after reading Vallario’s comments, he was surprised at the sheriff’s lack of compassion. “What if one of your children had terminal cancer and the doctor recommended it? What would you do?” he asked. “I just think Vallario needs to get his ducks in a row about people who need it.”Jeff, who came here from the Seattle area, has been on Washington’s marijuana registry for three years. While still officially a Washington resident, Jeff said he plans to get on the Colorado registry as soon as possible. While Jeff disagrees with Vallario’s attitude about medical marijuana, he said he completely agrees with the Aug. 2 arrest of Gene Brownlee and his family if they were breaking the law by growing too many marijuana plants. “I fully support the arrest they made,” he said. He said that as with any substance, whether it’s prescription drugs, alcohol, or anything else, there will be some people who abuse their privileges. But most people, he said, will abide by the rules. “There’s a handful of people who abuse it,” he said. “They use people like that as an example of the medical marijuana law.”He called Vallario’s attitude on medical marijuana an uneducated opinion. “Either don’t speak publicly about it if you don’t know what you’re talking about, or get educated,” he said. “I just don’t think he showed any compassion. He’s wrong. He’s really wrong. I don’t want to see the day when I get arrested for something that keeps me alive.”They should treat us with a little dignity and respect since we’re already dealing with (diseases); it isn’t easy,” Jeff said. Contact Greg Massé: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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