As medical marijuana programs go, Delaware’s falls somewhere in the middle of being the least and most restrictive on patients and healthcare professionals. The list of qualifying conditions was not very long when it was first put into place in 2011 – but the good news is the legislature is willing to amend the laws and expand them where it appears reasonable. At first, the only conditions that would get you a medical marijuana card in Delaware were debilitating pain, certain forms of cancer, ALS and Alzheimer’s disease.
Today that list includes symptoms of cancer, MS, HIV, AIDS, decompensated cirrhosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and agitation of Alzheimer’s disease, autism with aggressive or self-injurious behavior, epilepsy and physical manifestations of PTSD. Any condition that causes debilitating pain, wasting syndrome, nausea and seizures can also qualify for a medical marijuana card. Any conditions that are not listed already can file a petition to be added to the list – which is how terminal illness became a qualifying condition this week.
A man named Robert Jester was the inspiration for “Bob’s Law”, which allows terminally ill patients, including minors – suffering from pain, anxiety and depression – to qualify for a medical marijuana card. Robert Jester unfortunately did not live long enough to see this law enacted. He had been diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer and went through twenty rounds of chemotherapy and radiation before he finally passed in January of this year.
His wife, a medical marijuana card holder with fibromyalgia, had suggested that he try cannabis for the symptoms he was experiencing – everything from nausea and pain to depression and anxiety – and to no surprise, it made a difference. Not only was he starting to feel better, but the tumor had shrunk. Unfortunately, once his oncologist discovered his illegal use of medical cannabis he ordered him to stop. Instead, he put him on high doses of fentanyl and OxyContin, both addictive and far less beneficial than cannabis had been.
After his passing, his son Rich went on to petition for terminal illness to be a qualifying condition. Several months later, and “Bob’s Bill” is now “Bob’s Law” and no one else will be forced to suffer through the last years or months of their life like Robert Jester had to. Even though the program may have started out small five years ago, thanks to Rich and many others who have petitions for additional qualifying conditions, the list will continue to grow and offer more patients relief.
“Ultimately this is the best way I could think of to honor his memory,” Rich said at a press conference at the Helen Graham Cancer Center and Research Institute near Newark.