Woman with multiple sclerosis says pot eases her pain; prosecutor says she's breaking the law.
June 13, 2001
By Vic Ryckaert
Bedridden with multiple sclerosis, Jeanne A. Horton claims marijuana is the only thing that eases her chronic pain.
But her efforts to control her pain have gotten her into legal trouble. Now she's in Marion Superior Court, trying to persuade a judge to allow her to use marijuana for medicinal purposes.
"It helps substantially more than the medication that has been prescribed," said attorney Stephen W. Dillon, who was in court Tuesday with his 41-year-old client. Dillon also is the chairman of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Horton was diagnosed with the disease 17 years ago and has been unable to get out of bed for the past nine years, Dillon said. She was wheeled to the courtroom and leaned on supporters for assistance during her hearing, which was a routine appearance to set future court dates.
Horton is charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, misdemeanors that each carry a maximum sentence of a year in jail.
Marion County Prosecutor Scott Newman said he feels sympathy for Horton, but her illness does not excuse the fact that she broke the law.
"The medicinal use of marijuana is not recognized in this state," Newman said. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal law provides no exception for people to use marijuana for medical purposes.
Horton said her health has greatly improved since she started smoking pot in January. Proponents say the drug has been helpful in treating some illnesses by stimulating the appetite of people with AIDS, counteracting the nausea caused by chemotherapy, easing the pain of multiple sclerosis and helping to treat glaucoma.
"I felt a lot better -- less spasms, no aching in my joints, more mobility in my arms," she said. "It's not like I'm a dealer or anything like that, and I think it's a shame that it got way blown out of proportion like this."
The incident that led to charges against Horton happened on April 3, when Marion County sheriff's deputies were called to her home in the 5800 block of Fraser Court. There, three people -- Dillan L. Wright, 23; Blake A. Stokes, 18; and Janice L. Cronin, 18 -- were arrested when the deputies found a small bag of suspected marijuana, glass pipes, clips and rolling papers. Because Horton was bedridden, officers issued her a summons.
"Does she always invite her friends over to have her medicine?" Newman asked. "They had a pretty big medicine party."
There was no party,
Horton said. It was a coincidence that guests happened to be visiting and
were about to play cards. Horton was in another room in bed, and she said
she did not know what was going on.
Contact Vic Ryckaert at 1-317-635-7592 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org