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In January of 2008, a candle changed Rod's world completely.

    On the evening of January 15th, 2008, Rod Wells went out on the deck of his St. Charles, Missouri home. It was chilly, in the thirties, but bearable for a mid-winter evening. He let his dogs out to run in the back yard, as he would often do before bed.

    He lit a large candle that sat in a clay container over the TV in the corner. He then became involved with his pets. Shortly thereafter, he went to bed.
    About 3am, Rod’s wife awoke to the sound of a crashing noise. She asked Rod if he would go and see what it was.
    Entering the living room, he could see flames out on the deck. Rod quickly went to the door, knowing that a fire extinguisher was just outside. Opening the door, he could see a line of blue flames following the seams of the siding on the wall. Immediately, there was an explosion and he was hit with a burst of flames, burning his face and hands. It was at that point that he yelled for his wife and daughter to get out of the house.
    Remembering that he had another extinguisher in his garage, he made his way to that door, but upon opening, he saw that his Impala was already engulfed in flames. The smoke was so intense that all he could do is run for the front door.
    Once outside, he took a head count confirming that his wife, grandchild, and one of his dogs were safely outside.

fire_departments

    Already, the flames had reached his neighbor on one side and was threatening another. Fortunately, those residents made it out safely.
    Shortly after the fire trucks arrived, the streets began to ice up.
    Standing with roughly a hundred of his neighbors, he was soon sought out by the Sheriff. He told Rod that the firemen had discovered his “grow”. Also, a stash of dried cannabis was discovered along with rolling papers inside a locked steel desk that had  been opened.
    Apparently, some member(s) of the St. Charles County Fire Departments who were called in to fight the fire were more interested in offensive police actions than protecting the property of county residents.

     While Rod’s house was still burning, a deputy handcuffed Rod, his hands behind his back and placed him in a patrol car. He protested this use of handcuffs, explaining that he had epilepsy and a seizure could cause considerable bodily harm restrained that way. The deputies ignored his pleas, stating that it was “procedure”.
    Cold, bruised, and lacerated, Rod was hauled off and processed before being presented to a nurse. The nurse immediately informed the officers that Rod obviously required hospital treatment, so he was finally transported to the hospital for care. Thereafter he was sent back to jail and was locked up in an overcrowded holding cell with seventeen other guys.
    The Sheriff’s Department could only hold Rod for 24 hours, so he spent the rest of his incarceration trying to rest on the hard floor with only a blanket, apparently common treatment for an alleged non-violent drug criminal.

 

     Four months later, in the midst of Rod and his family’s efforts to rebuild their lives, the St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department returned an indictment, charging Rod with manufacturing a controlled substance, distribution, and a host of other charges, standard fare for anyone who is caught growing cannabis in the state of Missouri, no matter if its grown strictly for one’s own medicine or not.

 

     Rod has been offered six months in prison, five years probation. Rod thought that was too extreme, refusing to plead to a felony. The punishment outweighs the crime, in his words, “ten fold. A class B Felony puts me in the same category as violent criminals, meth dealers, larcenists.

 

    No one knew that he was growing. The neighbors, even those in close proximity to him had no idea that he was growing his own medicine. He had no impact what so ever on his community – that is, until the night of the fire.

 

     Since the fire, life has not been easy for Rod. He sleeps more now, one of the side-effects of the pharmaceuticals. He worries about having seizures and consequently, his physicians have had to increase his prescription dosages.

 

     Rod’s seizures are the result of a brain aneurysm that was diagnosed and subsequently removed in 1984. He experiences what is called tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizures and partial complex or absence (petit mal) seizures.
    Generalized tonic clonic seizures are the most common and best known type of generalized seizure. They begin with stiffening of the limbs (the tonic phase), followed by jerking of the limbs and face (the clonic phase).
    Absence seizures are lapses of awareness, sometimes with staring, that begins and ends abruptly, lasting only a few seconds. There is no warning and no after-effect. More common in children than in adults, absence seizures are frequently so brief that they escape detection, even when experiencing 50 to 100 attacks a day.

 

     Some of the prescription drugs that Rod must use are:

 

 Dilantin

 

     Dilantin is an anti-epileptic drug, also called an anti-convulsant. It works by slowing down impulses in the brain that cause seizures.
    Side effects include hives, difficulty breathing, swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat, mood or behavior changes, depression, anxiety, agitation, hostility, restlessness, hyperactivity, thoughts of suicide, or hurting one’s self, swollen glands, fever, sore throat, headache, severe blistering, peeling, red skin, rash, confusion, hallucinations, unusual thoughts or behavior, slurred speech, loss of balance or coordination, restless muscle movements in one’s eyes, tongue, jaw, or neck, tremors, extreme thirst or hunger, urinating more than usual, nausea, stomach pain, low fever, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice, easy bruising or bleeding, swollen or tender gums, changes in the shape of one’s face or lips, insomnia, twitching, vomiting, constipation, headache, joint pain.

 

Neurontin

 

    Neurontin is an anti-epileptic medication, also called an anticonvulsant. It affects chemicals and nerves in the body that are involved in the cause of seizures and some types of pain.
    Neurontin is used alone or in combination with other medications to treat seizures caused by epilepsy in adults and children who are least 12 years old. Neurontin is also used with other medications to treat partial seizures in children who are 3 to 12 years old.
    Side effects include hives, fever, swollen glands, painful sores in or around the eyes or mouth, difficulty breathing, swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat, mood or behavior changes, depression, anxiety, agitation, hostility, restlessness, hyperactivity, thoughts of suicide or hurting one’s self, increased seizures, fever, chills, body aches, flu symptoms, swelling of the ankles or feet, confusion, rapid back and forth movement of the eyes, tremor, easy bruising, changes in behavior, memory problems, trouble concentrating, aggressiveness, dizziness, drowsiness, weakness, tired feeling, lack of coordination, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, loss of appetite, diarrhea, constipation, dry mouth, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, headache, insomnia, unusual dreams, acne, mild skin rash.

 

Keppra

 

    Keppra is an anti-epileptic drug. It is used to treat partial onset seizures in adults and children. Keppra is also used to treat tonic-clonic seizures and myoclonic seizures.
    Side effects include hives, difficulty breathing, swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat, mood or behavior changes, depression, anxiety, agitation, hostility, restless, hyperactivity, thoughts of suicide or hurting one’s self, hallucinations, fever, chills, body aches, flu symptoms, weakness, lack of coordination, increasing or worsening seizures, nausea, stomach pain, loss of appetite, itching, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice, dizziness, spinning sensation, drowsiness, feeling irritable, headache, runny nose, sore throat, neck pain.

 

 Lamictal

 

     Lamictal is an anti-epileptic medication, also called an anticonvulsant. Lamictal is used alone or in combination with other medications to treat seizures in adults and children.
    Side effects include hives, fever, swollen glands, painful sores in or around the eyes or mouth, difficulty breathing, swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat, mood or behavior changes, depression, anxiety, agitation, hostility, restlessness, hyperactivity, thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself, fever, sore throat, headache, severe blistering, peeling, and red skin rash, chest pain, pale skin, easy bruising or bleeding, fever, chills, body aches, flu symptoms, muscle pain, tenderness, or weakness, flu symptoms, dark colored urine, nausea, stomach pain, low fever, loss of appetite, clay-colored stools, jaundice, dizziness or drowsiness, blurred vision, vomiting, diarrhea, upset stomach, headache, lack of coordination, weight loss, insomnia, unusual dreams, runny or stuffy nose.

 

     Prior to his arrest, Rod was able to reduce the amount of pharmaceuticals by also medicating with cannabis, thus reducing the side-effects that they caused.

 

     Despite all that has transpired, Rod’s children are still supportive. Rod has always been honest with them, referring to cannabis as his “medicine”. They have witnessed the difference it has made in his life and the deterioration of his health now that it has been taken from him. When he was regularly medicating, he wasn’t as depressed. He didn’t have the mood swings.

 

     Rod could have gotten away with much less than the penalties that he is facing, but instead he has chosen to make a stand, not only for himself, but also for all those who can’t afford an attorney, for those who must quietly suffer.
    “I can’t plead guilty to a felony,” he stated. “That wouldn’t be true to my children.”

 

     His wife is standing by him. “She understands my situation.”, Rod said confidently.
    But she has a lot to lose. If Rod is convicted, the powers that be will strip him of his Disability. For his wife, that means the risk of forfeiture house and much of what they own. Most of what they have struggled a lifetime to build.

    Rod quietly adds, “We’re depending on each other.”

 

    Here are parts one and two of my interview with Mr. Wells:

 

  

 
   This video was originally taken on July 3rd, 2006 while staying at Linda’s and her husband, Eddy Lepp’s home and ministry headquarters near Upper Lake, California. This clip took place at the end of Journey for Justice 7’s cross-country trip.

Patient and Activist Linda Senti of Upper Lake, California

    Linda was suffering from stage 4 lung cancer when I interviewed her. Her steadfast demeanor in the face of such a terrible prognosis was awe inspiring. Linda and Eddy attributed her prolonged life in contrast to a statistically improbable chance of survival to her heavy regiments of cannabis.
    Linda finally succumbed to her disease on November 25, 2007.
    To view all my Medical Cannabis Testimonies, please visit my youtube channel at www.youtube.com/CannabisPatientNet and to view our legislative reform, go to www.markpedersen.com