Lansing mom says son's legal marijuana use unfairly stigmatized

By John Schneider (Originally in his Blog in the Lansing State Journal)

As Jennifer Maxey describes it, medical marijuana has been a godsend for her 16-year-old son, Austin.

Austin has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a genetic disorder characterized by chronic pain.

In the hope of getting Austin off the debilitating pain killers he was taking, Maxey decided to try medicinal cannabis, legalized by Michigan voters in 2008. She went through the necessary steps, getting written certification from Austin’s doctor, then a medical marijuana registry identification card from state Department of Community Health.

Austin started using marijuana – less than a gram a week (there are about 28 grams in an ounce) – in March. Maxey, who lives in Lansing, buys pre-made muffins, candy and oil from the designated caregiver.

Maxey described the result as “phenomenal.”

“He’s a completely different child,” the mother said. “He used to be a recluse; now he asks to go places with me.”

Maxey believes Austin ran into an anti-marijuana prejudice at Sparrow Hospital recently. That “discrimination,” she said, is now part of Austin’s medical record, and she’s trying to correct that.

“He isn’t a drug abuser, and having that in his records could follow him the rest of his life,” she said.

Austin recently underwent surgery unrelated to his Ehlers-Danos. Naturally Maxey informed the folks at Sparrow that Austin was a medical marijuana user. That admission, she said, changed how Austin was treated. Not in the actual medical care he received, but in the attitude of those caring for Austin.

Maxey described it as “ridiculously rude.”

More troubling than the rudeness, Maxey said, are the notes now in Austin’s medical file.

“They listed him as a drug abuser in need of rehab …,” she wrote.

In a written reply to my request for comment, Sparrow spokesman John Berg wrote:

“Ms. Maxey’s contention that the notations in her son’s medical record refer to his use of medical cannabis is false. In the patient’s chart, the surgeon does make several references using the term ‘narcotic addiction,’ or a variation similar to this.

“He, from a medical perspective, is clearly indicating that:

• “This patient requires medical management for a complex situation regarding pain medication.

• “This medical management is outside his normal experience and expertise.

” “Narcotic addiction” is a medical term that refers to someone who takes narcotics regularly on a long-term basis, as is clearly the case with this patient. These references in the chart do not refer to the patient’s use of medical cannabis but are specific to a complex medical history regarding a variety of pain medications.”

However, Maxey points to a note on the “History & Physical” form from Sparrow that refers to Austin’s “Obvious marijuana use.” She also provided me with a copy of a June 16 letter from Austin’s doctor, Arthur J. Ronan of Lansing, that said, in part: “Austin has never abused his medication, nor has he ever been treated for substance abuse, or addiction.”

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