There was resignation in Lenny Ellis’ voice.
“I assume I’ll be arrested,” he said. “I use it all the time.”
“It” is marijuana.
Ellis, 67, said he’s in the final stages of muscular dystrophy. Marijuana, he said, eases his symptoms.
When he smokes marijuana, he said, his muscles relax. That in turn allows him to do the day-to-day chores that he has to do. He lives in a log cabin in New Vineyard. Smoking pot also helps him to sleep, he said.
In 1999, 61 percent of Maine’s voters endorsed a referendum question creating the Medicinal Marijuana Act. That law allows people like Ellis to use marijuana for medicinal purposes providing they have a doctor’s prescription.
On Monday, the nation’s highest court essentially overturned Maine’s law and similar laws in nine other states. Federal lawmen can enforce federal laws outlawing marijuana, the court ruled.
Ellis isn’t happy with the turn of events. But he realizes there isn’t anything he can do about it except wait – wait for the police to come barging in.
They did just that in August 2000. A dozen Franklin County sheriff’s deputies, Maine Drug Enforcement Agency agents and U.S. Border Patrol agents barged into Ellis’ home. They confiscated 83 pot plants growing on two nearby plots and seized between two and four pounds of processed marijuana stored in coffee cans in Ellis’ house.
The amount of marijuana Ellis possessed violated the state’s medical marijuana law, which allowed him to have up to an ounce and a quarter for personal use.
Police later said information gleaned from the raid led them to other elderly Franklin County pot smokers, one 80 years old.
Ellis had a note from a Waterville doctor sanctioning his use of pot to alleviate his disease’s symptoms. He eventually paid a $200 fine.
Ellis said he was growing and processing more marijuana than allowed by law in order to make certain his supply lasted through the winter and into the next growing season.
“I’m not going to answer that,” he replied Monday, when asked if he still grows the marijuana he says he smokes daily.
However, he did share some thoughts on Monday’s high court decision. Ellis maintained the action is political, a payback by politicians to the nation’s pharmaceutical companies in return for their campaign contributions.
“Don’t we have a right” to use marijuana? he asked rhetorically. “No,” he answered, “because you wouldn’t be buying pharmaceutical drugs.”
Then he continued: “Well, I can’t use those drugs. If I take them I’m dead. I’m allergic to what’s in them.”
So, said Ellis, he’ll continue smoking what he calls “a God-given herb” in order to gain some relief from the agony of his failing muscles.
“If they want to put me in jail, fine,” he said. Unlike in 2000, this time he won’t post bail.
“I will stay there. They will have to pay for my hospital bills.”
But he’d rather not. He’d rather stay and live out what life he has left in the remote area of western Maine that he calls home.
“I just want to be left alone,” Ellis said.