There are probably folks who don’t support the use of cannabis for medical purposes in the city of Asheville, but that point of view wasn’t on display at the June 27 meeting of Asheville City Council. A large crowd of medical marijuana advocates gathered to voice their support of a resolution urging North Carolina legislators to join 29 other states in legalizing the medical use of the drug.
Todd Stimson, the Fletcher man released in April after serving a 25-month sentence for marijuana trafficking, helped Council draft the resolution and was on hand to speak about his ongoing commitment to fighting for the legal use of cannabis for medical purposes.
“Cannabis allows tens of millions of citizens to mitigate or eliminate their symptoms without becoming addicted or incapacitated,” Stimson said. “Without support for legislation, the citizens who really get hurt are those who need cannabis the most.”
Joining Stimson in asking Council to pass the resolution, 15 speakers from Asheville and beyond commented on their experiences with medical cannabis. Many, like Jennifer Evans, testified to the drug’s effectiveness in controlling symptoms and even slowing the progression of disease for family members with serious illnesses.
Evans said her son had been diagnosed with a brain tumor shortly before his 14th birthday. A course of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy eventually controlled the tumor. A year later, it came back. Evans used her life savings to take her son to Colorado for treatment with medical cannabis. As of June 6, her son was declared cancer-free. “That is something to fight for,” Evans told Council through tears.
Taylon Breeden described how medical cannabis helps her manage the symptoms of Crohn’s disease, which causes inflammation of the intestines. Before turning to cannabis, Breeden said, her weight had plummeted to 82 pounds, and the side effects of the medicines she used to control her symptoms weren’t worth the relief they offered. Since using cannabis, she said, she gained back all the lost weight, graduated from college while working full time, and is pursuing a career in farming and advocacy work.
Council member Cecil Bothwell commented that Dr. Ron Paulus, CEO of Mission Health, has said that replacing opioid pain medication with cannabis is the only way to cure the epidemic of opioid addiction.
On July 2, however, Mission Health released a statement saying that the organization “does not have a position on the legalization of medical marijuana.” Included in Mission’s statement is a personal statement from Paulus. “Legalization is a complex political choice, particularly given conflicting interpretation among states and the federal government,” the Mission CEO concludes, “but from a science standpoint it is very clear that more robust research should be pursued.”
“You made serious sacrifices,” Mayor Esther Manheimer said to Stimson of his recent prison term, thanking him for his continuing advocacy of medical cannabis and for his assistance with the resolution before the Council. Manheimer pointed out that cities are not able to legalize the medical or recreational use of marijuana, but that Buncombe County legislators have co-sponsored and support legislation to create the North Carolina Medical Cannabis Act.
Council unanimously approved the resolution in support of medical cannabis as part of its consent agenda.
Editor’s note: This story was updated on July 3 to include Mission Health’s and Dr. Ron Paulus’ statements on medical marijuana.