Eaglehead woman fights for medical marijuana, in memory of son

April 14, 2004

Brad Pierce, The Gazette - Maryland

A painting of Patricia Skidmore's son hangs over her fireplace, facing a porch overlooking Lake Linganore.

It's a good likeness of him, she said. And it is a constant reminder of why she advocates the use of marijuana for those who are suffering from crippling diseases.

Her son, John, died 11 years ago at the age of 28 from AIDS. Constantly nauseous, he would smoke marijuana to keep the pain down and his appetite up, she said. And when his supply ran out, Skidmore, a registered nurse who at the time was working with Johns Hopkins Hospital, went to bat for her son by finding him more.

She said she wasn't afraid of the legal consequences because she knew what she was doing was right.

Skidmore, who now teaches at Frederick Community College, said keeping people who are suffering from being able to ease their pain is criminal.

'For some people, [marijuana] can be a godsend,' she said. 'It was with my son. I saw it with my own eyes.'

Under strict conditions, Maryland allows for the medical use of marijuana.

However, nothing on record stops federal law enforcement agencies from prosecuting those with state permission and seizing property for being in violation of federal laws.

Pending bills now being debated in House sub-committees would give states the power to rule over the matter themselves without federal interference.

Skidmore, a Coldstream resident, said she and other proponents of medical marijuana use have spoken with U.S. Congressman Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-Dist. 6) of Buckeystown about their efforts and the pending House bills. She said Bartlett was very receptive to their concerns and indicated support.

But according to Lisa Wright, spokesman for Bartlett, 'he has not taken a position one way or another.'

In general, she said, 'he is very wary' about politicians determining the appropriate medical policies when it comes to specific drugs and the Food and Drug Administration should be the first to make the determination.

To Skidmore, it's a simple issue of states' rights.

'There are a lot of strong feelings about it,' she said, but in the end it's a matter of either helping out someone in pain or leaving them to suffer knowing that something could have been done.

So Skidmore will continue her campaign by talking to anyone who will listen.

Next month, she's off to Charlottesville, Va. to speak at the Third National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics.

She'll be part of a program titled, 'Mothers Know Best.'

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