SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

May 8, 2014

For patients, a long wait gets longer

SALEM — The sixth time Tommy Dawson had surgery, medical marijuana was still illegal in Massachusetts.
It was September 2012, and Dawson, who has neurofibromatosis, a lifelong disease where nerve endings grow tumors, had to have a growth removed from his left ankle. The surgery also removed a portion of his bone and led to a lengthy — and painful — recovery.
Dawson knew marijuana could alleviate his pain. He’d been using it to treat that and the spasms associated with his disease since he was a teenager. So, it must have been a relief when voters legalized the drug for medical purposes shortly after the surgery in November 2012.
But more than a year-and-a-half later, Dawson still can’t walk into a dispensary and buy marijuana, or have it delivered to his apartment on Bridge Street, or get it through means that are entirely legal. He’s in the same position many qualified patients are in: legally allowed to treat their symptoms with the drug but left on their own to try to find it.
That situation was prolonged for local patients like Dawson with the recent announcement that Alternative Therapies, the dispensary coming to Grove Street, would delay its opening date by up to six months because of how long the state’s licensing process is taking.
“My husband is forced to go to the black market,” said Nichole Snow Dawson, Tommy’s wife. “It’s a struggle. Actually today, we’re trying to figure out where the next source will be.”
Dawson said her husband’s condition has likely caused him to develop more than 1,500 neurofibromas, or benign tumors, and that marijuana had become an “everyday thing” for him because of the related spasms.
“They’re debilitating; they can be painful,” she said. “He can feel very productive on medical cannabis because the spasms stop, and he’s able to do things.”

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