I admire Susan Meehan.
She’s a mom of four, formerly of Connecticut, now of Maine since 2013. Meehan moved to Maine to have access to cannabis oil used to treat her daughter, Cyndimae’s, Dravet Syndrome, a condition that caused severe daily seizures.
Treated with cannabis oil, Cyndimae’s seizures slowed to one or two a week, and she was able to gain weight and work her way out of her wheelchair. Meehan says the cannabis oil gave her a couple really good years where she was able to walk and attend school and other activities.
I had a chance to visit with Meehan this past Saturday at her home in Augusta. Sadly, Cyndimae passed away in March of this year, and Meehan’s grief is still fresh when she glances at Cyndimae’s portrait nearby. It’s a beautiful picture of a very happy young girl.
Other than that moment looking at her daughter’s picture, Meehan manages to turn her grief into a calm strength she uses to continue being a loving mom to her remaining three children. Meehan also uses that strength to continue advocating for the rights of children as pertaining to medical cannabis treatment.
She’s part of the force behind a group called Maine Children for Cannabis Therapy (MCCT) and was involved in getting the legislature to pass a bill allowing for children to access their cannabis medications in school.
Samantha Brown of South Berwick was involved with that effort, as well, and I admire her, too. She’s treating her daughter Kaylee’s, Dravet Syndrome seizures with cannabis oils as well.
Brown and Meehan were gathering with other activists, like caregivers Sayra Small and Scottie Oullette of Dayton on Saturday, to make videos expressing their concerns about the pending recreational marijuana referendum question and its potential impacts on the medical marijuana program.
For Brown, mom of two, the stakes are quite high. Like Meehan she explained the long process involved in finding just the right strain of cannabis for her daughter’s particular chemistry. Brown was quick to add, though, that some improvement in the frequency, intensity, and length of the seizures was found as soon as cannabis therapy was started.
Brown and Meehan spoke of the generosity of local caregivers as they were working through their processes to find the right strain of marijuana for their children. Meehan said that once local caregivers knew of Cyndimae’s situation and which strain worked for her, Meehan had consistent access to “safe donated medicine.”
Ouellette and Small concurred, as caregivers who are big on donating to clients in need, especially “to kids and cancer patients.” Ouellette quipped, “I can’t take the money,” when he dies, “but I can take the memories.” As recovering addicts who use medical marijuana to support their recoveries, Ouellette and Small find extra purpose in giving to others.
Brown benefitted from caregivers who were willing to help her through the process of finding the right strain for Kaylee. Once found, caregivers helped her to learn to extract the oils herself. Meehan, Brown, Ouellette, and Small are worried about changes that legalized recreational marijuana access, as proposed in the current referendum question, might bring to the medical marijuana program.
First, to be clear, all are in favor of ending the prohibition of marijuana. However, all are concerned that the proposed amendment too closely mirrors the laws in other states, like Washington, Oregon and Alaska, that have led to drastic changes in the already established medical programs in those states.
As Brown explained to me (and on one of the videos hyperlinked above), a similar recreational law in Oregon has evolved over time, resulting in making the unlicensed production of extractions a felony. Were she to try to grow and produce Kaylee’s medicine as a mom in Oregon as things currently stand, Brown reports she would need two separate licenses at an addition cost she estimates to be $8000.
Or Brown could purchase the medicine at an approved outlet that may or may not carry or be willing to carry the specific strain Kaylee needs consistently. Some of the strains that work best for seizures are “low yield” strains, which means the plants don’t produce as much flower per plant and are less desirable to retailers who prefer high yield strains that allow for larger harvests per plant.
Currently Brown is able to grow and extract by registering as a caregiver here in Maine — no extra licensing fees, no being forced to use approved recreational dispensaries. Brown and the others don’t want to see the same eventual changes in Maine that caregivers in other states have seen. They are very concerned that the proposed legislation favors larger growers who will then have greater say in how the market evolves than small local growers and medical marijuana caregivers.
As a group, they are open to regulations about the testing and monitoring for quality of medical marijuana as well as a future recreational marijuana market — something the caregivers I’ve interviewed already do. Most of these folks are vigilante about producing quality marijuana and products and knowing the dosage of THC or CBD for example, which are components of cannabis.
It’s understandable some caregivers protective of their medical marijuana program. An independent study declared Maine’s medical marijuana program to be the best in the country. These caregivers believe that it’s in Maine’s best interest and in child patients’ best interest to end prohibition in a way that builds on the success of the medical marijuana program, preserves the medical marijuana program, and gives ample voice and room to compete to local growers, the very growers who have helped to give Cyndimae and Kaylee improved quality of life.
More news on the Maine medical marijuana front! Living up to the state’s motto Dirigo (I lead), caregivers in Maine are on the forefront of the push to treat addiction with medical marijuana. Caregivers Catherine and Glenn Lewis, Dennis Hammac, and patient Bo Davis will be featured on an episode of “Weediquette” on the Vice Channel.
In July, a team from Vice came and spent a week with these caregivers and Davis as Davis came off his methadone treatment using marijuana concentrates. As it stands now, he has been clean 86 days after being on methadone for 10 years, and when I saw Davis a few weeks ago he looked and sounded awesome!
The Lewises are a husband and wife team, and when I asked each how they were feeling as they were waiting to see the premier of the episode, their answers showed how well they balance each other out. Catherine was nervous because they wore microphones all week and at times “bared our souls,” and they have no way of knowing “what part of their souls will be reflected back for all the world to see.”
Catherine emphasized that, no matter what, she wanted “a message of hope to come through,” to addicts. Glenn simply added an “it’s all good!” Hammac seconded Catherine’s desire to share a message of hope that lets addicts know there is another way, a natural way.
The “Weediquette” episode starring our fellow Mainers will air on Vice on Wed. Oct. 5 at 10 p.m. I don’t have cable or dish service, so I can’t tell you what channel Vice is, but do check your local listings and, as you watch, know that Davis is still doing great!