a little something extra

a little something extra

Saturday, March 24, 2012

My Hero

Whenever i’m asked who my hero is, I always say my husband, Scott.   He is the gutsiest person I know; just this past week he talked a big-name personal injury lawyer to write a $7500 check.  And not for himself, for a friend.

Some background:  Scott is a medical marijuana patient.  Nevada has amended its State constitution to accommodate specific patients who find cannabis to be the best palliative for their symptoms.  However, the plants must be grown and harvested by the patient; the amendment does not mandate for licensed stores, like Colorado or California.  Patients, even those who are crippled, in pain, or have just months to live must either grow their own (which takes months), buy illegally off the street, or try an ersatz  “delivery service”. Before Scott’s first grow was mature, he obtained his medicine from a trailblazing dispensary owner, John,  who is an amazing individual.  John was born with a genetic mutation which deforms his body terribly--he has no arms, just hands at his shoulders, and short misshapened legs--and unable to take any anti-inflammatories, aspirin, or narcotic pain-killers.  He spends his life in pain, and smokes weed for pain control.   

John decided to open a non-profit medical marijuana dispensary in 2010 to help people.  He got a city business license, hired knowledgeable employees, and opened his office.  It was a low-key operation, and the few times I went with Scott to pick up meds I was filled with compassion for some of the people I met there.  Often, there was a progression:  first the patient  would come in themselves, then their caretaker, and eventually no one, which meant the person had died.  

Over time, Scott and John became friends.  Because Scott always wears tie-dye, John nicknamed him The Hippie--he’d call the house and ask “is the Hippie home?” if I happened to answer the phone.  After Scott  harvested his crop he stopped going to the dispensary but they kept in touch.  

John was busy.  His dispensary had a good reputation.  Marijuana is not all the same; it varies in potency and effects--in fact  it’s bred and hybridized just like corn or apples for a specific use.  One strain might be better for migraine and another for glaucoma.  The key is reproducibility and reliability.  If you’ve just had a grueling chemo treatment or your head is exploding you want medicine that works effectively, the same way, every time.   And that was the thing  at John’s dispensary, you knew what you were getting would provide relief for your specific symptoms.

After about a year of quiet operation, the federal government decided to crack down on the dispensaries in the area.  (Evidently President Obama lied.)  John was arrested in the first sweep through the valley.  The DEA were physically rough during the raid.  Scott spoke to John after the arrest and he was worried about his clients, one in particular who was blind and badly treated by the police.  John got 14 months in federal prison, and a couple of months ago was released on parole.   (On a side note, another dispensary owner was recently shut down by the feds and only received a fine; there’s a lot of disparity in the prosecution of these cases.)

John contacted us when he got out, and Scott (along with other friends) got John to and from appointments, helped him move into a small apartment, grocery shop, see the doctor, and restart his life.  John got himself a puppy, so he wouldn’t be lonesome, and started looking for work--he was subsisting on disability and food stamps.  Barely.

Then disaster struck.  One of the conditions of John’s parole was that he had to pay back the Social Security disability that he had mistakenly collected while he was operating his dispensary...even though it was run as a non-profit.  His disability checks would be henceforth garnished--in their entirety--as restitution until the debt was repaid, about ten months, which left John essentially penniless unless he could find a job, and who is going to hire a man with John’s physical disabilities?  

After the initial panic, John called Scott, who calmed him down and helped plan a course of action.  First, he went to the Social Security office, talked to a patient advocate, and his parole officer.  Nobody could do anything, negotiate a payment plan, or help untangle the red tape.  Nobody cared.  Scott was livid.  He hates unfairness.  On John’s behalf, he emailed letters asking for for assistance with this bureaucratic nightmare to the local TV stations, John’s congressman, and the high-dollar injury lawyers in our area.  

Scott’s efforts bore fruit almost immediately.  KLAS replied the next day, their lead investigative reporter George Knapp was interested in the story and set up an interview.  (The first sentence of his reply email was “This is bullshit!”) Joe Heck’s office, (John’s congressman) called and set up an appointment.  And Glen Lerner (the “Heavy Hitter”) of the high-dollar lawyers--via a serendipitous fumble-fingered glitch--responded to Scott with his personal email address.  

With a snarky reply.  Game on, Glen, game on.

Scott initiated a three-hour emailing marathon, at the conclusion of which Mr. Lerner offered to pay the restitution fee himself.  No strings attached.  John and Scott picked up the check together later that day, and went to the Social Security office where John paid his restitution in full.

I’d like to give a shout out to Glen Lerner.  Thank you.

As a result, John’s probation will be shortened, and, most pressing,  he won’t become homeless.  Hopefully people will respond to George Knapp’s TV report, and someone might be able to offer John a job.  Maybe Congressman Heck will be able to get John a fairer shake with his parole...or at least a better wheelchair from Medicaid!  John says life is worth getting up for in the morning.

He says Scott is his hero.

He’s mine, too.