Tommy Dawson, 23, of Salem, has neurofibromatosis. It causes tumors to grow on the nerve endings of his body. Since he was two years old, he has had to have periodic surgeries to remove the tumors. His most recent surgery was on September 12.
As of right now, there is no cure and no medicine to stop it.
As a result of the neurofibromatosis, Dawson experiences sharp, uncomfortable, throbbing pain that tends to not go away. It's a nerve pain throughout his entire nervous system.
Ibuprofen doesn't work, and he's allergic to Oxycontin and other opiates.
Nothing really works to control the pain. Except marijuana.
>> READ: The FAQs: Marijuana dispensaries <<
Dawson spends about $110 on a quarter ounce of marijuana a week. "Sour Diesel seems to help the pain a lot," he says.
Dawson's doctor is aware he uses marijuana medicinally.
In a little more than six weeks, Dawson's doctor will be able to provide him with written certification saying, in effect, that the benefits of his using marijuana for medical purposes outweigh the risks. With that certification in hand, he will be able to legally grow, in an "enclosed, locked facility," a 60-day supply of the drug — at least until the Department of Public Health establishes the framework for a system of medical-marijuana dispensaries.
Dawson will need about two ounces for a 60-day supply. He doesn't know how to grow it, so — as allowed under the new law — he'll probably have a caretaker grow it for him.
The Massachusetts Medical Society thinks a bit differently about medical marijuana than Dawson: "Despite the vote, the Massachusetts Medical Society continues to assert that marijuana has not been proven to be medicine," according to a statement from its president, Richard Aghababian, MD.
But thanks to voters, that kind of rhetoric will no longer prevent Dawson from getting the care he needs. "People don't have to be afraid of it anymore," Dawson says with a sigh of relief. "Because now, it's actually accepted."
Here in Massachusetts and around the country, it's been a celebratory few weeks as marijuana prohibitions have gone up in smoke. Washington State and Colorado voters legalized the weed outright. And Massachusetts's "An Initiative Petition for a Law for the Humanitarian Medical Use of Marijuana," better known as Question 3, passed with 63 percent of the vote, making us the 18th state in the nation with medical marijuana.
But for doctors, black marketeers, and the entrepreneurs who will soon form Massachusetts's first legal marijuana economy, the law passed by voters on November 6 poses far more questions than it answers.
Now, as the smoke clears, cannabis consumers of the Commonwealth look around, blinking into the bright light of the future, wondering: what's next?
At the Evergreen Garden Center in Peabody, manager Nathaniel Holden has been receiving over a dozen calls per day since the election, asking about seeds and baby plants. Groups of people have been coming into the store and asking him how to grow pot and open dispensaries.
"I think what people need to understand right now is, this isn't a free-for-all. This is the time to show how responsible we can be," he says. "People need to know, as loose as this is gonna get in the future, we're not there now."