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Use compassion in vote

Let’s pass medical marijuana question

Just days before his 29th birthday, my son, Silas “Sy” River Bennett, had to call an ambulance when he could not move his neck due to excruciating pain. When Silas got to the hospital, an X-ray disclosed that half of a vertebra in his neck was gone, eaten away by stage IV cancer. Silas had recently returned to college to study journalism and was excited about working toward a career that would allow him to be part of creating social and political change.

Cancer changed everything.

Within a month of his diagnosis, Silas had surgery to stabilize his neck and was undergoing chemotherapy treatments that left him weak and throwing up nonstop for days at a time. It is difficult to describe the pain and suffering my son endured. As hard as he tried, he could not stop vomiting and continued losing strength. Silas was fighting hard to stay alive, yet his life had become a roller coaster of unbearable pain and hospitalizations in spite of the excellent medical and personal care he was receiving.

I had heard about people taking medical marijuana for nausea during chemotherapy and when Silas and I discussed it, he decided it was worth trying. Medical marijuana made a huge difference in how his body tolerated the intensive chemotherapy treatments and allowed him to keep food down. Once he started taking medical marijuana, Silas was able to go out to various diners and restaurants and more fully enjoy the company of family and friends; those are memories my daughters and I will have forever.

Medical marijuana also helped with his anxiety and, unlike many medications, this was something he could take without any negative side effects. It assisted my son with his ability to stay present and to look toward future goals and projects, even during the darkest of times. It allowed him to continue his journalism through his photography, and to stay present right up until the last hours of his life.

Because Silas was a true warrior, he did not give up, did not give in. He was on IV pain medication, getting radiation treatments and taking an anti-cancer drug. Nothing was strong enough to stop the physical agony he was in or the cancer from spreading.

Still, Silas got up each day, looking toward life only, despite his prognosis. During the last few days of his life, Silas bought a blender so that I could experience my first frozen margarita, visited the Boston aquarium and ate delicious pastries from Mike’s Italian Bakery. And while it was beyond devastating to watch my young son’s life wane, I know that Sy’s last days would have been much worse without medical marijuana.

When voters go to the polls on Nov. 6, I hope that they will remember Sy’s story.

They should know that Question 3 will be the safest medical marijuana program in the country. There are 1,000 treatment centers in LA, but there will be only 35 in Massachusetts. Question 3 also requires the state to maintain a centralized database of all patients and physicians involved in the program, require that patients have a bona fide physician/patient relationship with the doctor who writes the recommendation and even creates a new felony for anyone who defrauds the medical marijuana system for distribution. These are just some of the regulations to prevent misuse use of the system that are not seen in other states.

This question is about compassion and easing the suffering of people with serious medical issues. Please vote “yes” on 3 Tuesday.

Lorraine Kerz is a resident of Greenfield. She is the executive director of Sy’s Fund, a nonprofit organization that funds hobbies and personal pursuits of young adults ages 18 through 39 who have cancer or serious medical issues related to cancer.

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