By Michael Hill
Registered nurse Jennie Stormes fills the dispenser with medical cannabis for her 14-year-old son, Jackson, who suffers from a rare and catastrophic epilepsy.
Jennie says pretty soon, medical cannabis is the only drug Jackson will get after 14 years of trial and error with countless, multi-syllabic prescriptions.
Twice a day — since November 2012 — Jennie has given Jackson a dose of what she describes as progress.
“He’s getting his life back, talk and walk and use more speech. Overall doing better,” Jennie said. “It’s actually in 14 years the only drug that’s worked. The only thing that has worked to stop, control his seizures whatsoever. So as far as I’m concerned it is not an illicit drug. It’s a medicine.”
While New Jersey has legalized medical marijuana, the federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug — on the same list as LSD and heroin, with “no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse…and dependence,” according to the U.S. Justice Department.
When Jackson had a severe seizure two weeks ago, Jennie rushed him once again to Hackensack University Medical Center an hour away. This time, Jennie defied the hospital’s no-marijuana policy to give Jackson his doses for several days.
“I didn’t want to go through that again. I just decided, you know what? I’m standing my ground this time,” she said.
“We really want to do the right thing for the parents and the patients,” said Dr. Jeffrey Boscamp.
Boscamp says hospitals can’t dispense what the federal government considers an illegal drug.
“We have to respect the national law or put ourselves in jeopardy,” he said.
While hospitals await guidance from the Justice Department on the issue, Jackson gets his medical cannabis at home in Warren County. He’s a typical boy who loves to swim and play basketball and romp around on the trampoline. He’s had two brain surgeries and a pacemaker-like implant — you can see it near his heart — that re-trains his brain not to have seizures. His mom offers gentle care but is a giant of an advocate — challenging Gov. Christie at a town hall meeting.
“We need to figure it out. We need to stop letting the future hold the answers and nobody’s doing anything about it,” Jennie said.
Jennie says at this point, she owes Jackson the best quality of life she can give him and that’s with medicine that works. Cannabis — she says — works and the medical profession and federal government need to get on board or get out of the way.