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Medical marijuana patient appeals to county board

Published 10:16am Monday, December 7, 2009

By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News

CASSOPOLIS – A medical marijuana patient asked the Cass County Board of Commissioners Thursday night to consider how it “can help patients who are really dying in our community – not just 80- and 90-year-olds.”

“I’m 52 and I am dying,” said Sylvester Vanderbutts of Huntly Road in Howard Township.

He alluded to his appearance Wednesday night on WNDU-TV, Channel 16 in South Bend, Ind., with Stephanie Stang.

Medical marijuana grown for personal smoking “doesn’t cost them everything they have to drug dealers on the street and it keeps patients out of the hospital so taxpayers don’t have to foot the medical bills,” he said.

“I’m under a doctor’s care and suffering really bad now, like this other couple” seated next to him.

“I would like the commission to look into this and see how it can help patients here in this county.”

Vanderbutts read a letter about it “not being good to run a SWAT team through a cancer patient’s home.”

“I suffer every day from stage four cancer. I have stage three hepatitis C in my liver. I have type one diabetes. I have severe stomach nausea, I have an ulcer the size of a half dollar in the bottom of my stomach and high blood pressure to go along with that.
“The medical marijuana I consume has been keeping me alive for a long time,” he said. “It has taken the place of all the drugs the doctors had for me, except for my insulin for diabetes.

“I’ve embraced the thought of dying,” Vanderbutts said, “and I have been blessed by Father God above to even be here right now to stand here to speak with you. Maybe a blessing will come out of this somehow.”

A year after more than 60 percent of Michigan voters legalized use of marijuana for medical purposes, Vanderbutts reportedly has three pot plants left. He had seven times that before Sept. 14, when the SWAT team raided his home for exceeding the law’s limits.

He’s been charged with possession with intent to deliver and manufacture marijuana, plus maintaining a drug house in Cass County.

If convicted, Vanderbutts faces up to eight years in prison.

His operation, with moving ultraviolet growing lights, was shut down, 23 plants confiscated.

Under Michigan law, a medical marijuana card holder can have 2.5 ounces of marijuana and 12 plants.

Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz, who was in Dowagiac Friday night for the Christmas parade, pointed to research that shows a person with a permit would have to smoke 50 joints a day for a year to use up their legal allowance.

“I think most people who voted for this were helping the 80- or 90-year-old grandma or grandfather who was on their last leg with glaucoma, or perhaps needed it for that purpose. I don’t think most of the public knew they voted for a law that would allow for a person to have enough marijuana on hand to keep a high school football team high for a year,” Fitz told WNDU.

Marijuana accounts for 20 percent of Cass County’s caseload.

Nearly 8,000 cards have been issued in Michigan in the eight months since April.
“We have had a handful of cases where individuals who had large amounts of marijuana tried to claim it’s for medical purposes, but our courts in Cass County, as well as around the state, are not buying that argument,” Fitz said.

Vanderbutts has attended the last couple Cass County commission meetings to push for legislation allowing permit holders to grow more plants.

He would also like Michigan to legalize medical marijuana dispensaries, similar to California.

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