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October 15, 2012

Question 3: Sham vs. lifesaver

Patient comfort, legality play into medical marijuana ballot vote

ROWLEY — Karen Hawkes was 38 years old when she was stricken by a debilitating stroke in 2006.

A mother of two young children, Hawkes, a Massachusetts state trooper at the time, had to retire from her job.

And then came the pain.

The stroke damaged the part of her brain that influences pain receptors and pain blockers. The result: a whole-body pain that rivaled the worst flu symptoms she’d ever had.

The Rowley mom struggled over the next four years to find the right combination of pharmaceutical drugs that would ease the pain and still allow her to lead a normal life, free of the fog that envelops most people when they are under the influence of strong narcotic medications.

Nothing worked.

In 2010 she had an important conversation with a friend, who told her about the medicinal benefits of marijuana, how it could ease her pain without turning her into a zombie unable to care for her children, make them dinner, get them off to school in the morning, help them with the homework. The usual kind of stuff.

Despite her years of training and experience as a cop, during which she worked to incarcerate people involved in illegal drugs, she relented. She started out smoking marijuana, then later inhaling it from a vaporizer. The result wasn’t immediate, but once the drug took effect, her life was changed forever.

“It’s counterintuitive, which is why it took so long for me to accept it was good for me and my family,” said Hawkes, who has taken up the cause of Question 3, a Nov. 6 Massachusetts ballot question that would legalize medicinal marijuana. “When I realized it worked, and it was safe and effective, I did a lot of research. It’s a much more amazing medicine than I had ever dreamed of.”

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