In 2002, my brother Tristan was diagnosed with leukemia. He grew and used cannabis to relieve the symptoms of chemotherapy. In 2004 Vermont passed “An Act Relating to Marijuana Use by Persons With Severe Illness” allowing for one flowering plant grown by patients with cancer, AIDS, HIV, or multiple sclerosis. Shortly before he died in 2005, Tristan realized that many of my symptoms from chronic kidney disease could be alleviated with cannabis. He encouraged me to try it, and when I did I showed dramatic improvement.
In July 2007, the law was amended to include patients with debilitating illnesses that produce persistent and intractable wasting syndrome, severe pain, nausea, or seizures. August 2, the police raided the immature cannabis garden my mother was growing for me and she was charged with felony cultivation. After consulting with an attorney we prepared a defense of necessity. When we were a week away from trial the judge decided we would not be allowed to talk about Tristan or explain why we were growing cannabis to a jury.
That was a shock to us.
The trial court refused to recognize that my illness was an ongoing emergency that outweighed the criminal wrong my mom committed. At that point, we made a petition to the Vermont Supreme Court to allow us to explain our story. After they heard our petition, they waited eight months to turn it down on a technicality. Because the law had been amended to include the symptoms I used cannabis for, they decided that a reasonable juror could not have found my mother believed herself to be justified. Now I know my mom, and I know what she has been through, and I don’t believe there is a jury in Vermont that would convict her for what she has done.
This is America, she should have the chance to explain herself.