Barber tried all conventional treatments, with no improvement. Medical bills cost Matthew and his wife Laura everything they owned, and Laura had to quit her job to take care of him.
Two years ago while in the VA medical center for emergency treatment of Matthews agony and paralysis, the Barbers were told by a visiting neurologist (from California) that marijuana was the only treatment that offered promise for MS patients.
Because marijuana is not legal for medical use in Michigan, the Barbers had to break the law to get Matthew marijuana.
Smoking marijuana, Matthew improved significantly.
Last month the Barbers were stopped for speeding. Police searched their vehicle and discovered Matthews cannabis -- two ounces -- a months supply.
The couple explained that they had the marijuana for medicinal reasons. They say the police were civil and apologetic as they arrested them and took them to jail.
On Tuesday, July 6, the Barbers go to court for a pre-trial hearing on the charge of criminal possession of cannabis.
Matthew says he will not stop using marijuana. Laura says she will not stop helping him get the marijuana he needs,
I have seen the change in my husband in 18 months of doing this, Laura says. My husband is able to walk. Not long distances, but he has more use of himself than he has had in the last three years. We have noticed a slow down in the progression of the lesions in his brain.
Matthew feels that God had a hand in developing this legal situation.
We were tired of sneaking around, he said. Matthew had prayed about what to do and received a message: dont walk in fear; find a solution so you dont have to be afraid.
The Barbers are now ready to face a jury trail in hopes of establishing the right to use medical marijuana. They feel that Matthews life will be in jeopardy if he is imprisoned and forced to stop using cannabis. They say they chose to face this risk and argue the issue not just for themselves but for all the critically-ill people who use medical marijuana and are forced to live in fear.
In related news, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed last week to hear a case on the legality of medical marijuana.
plan show of support
The local Michigan Cannabis Action Network chapter is planning to rally outside the Grand Traverse County courthouse at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, July 6 to show support for Matt and Laura Barber.
He is not willing to go back to existing in a fog of pain, nausea, and drugged confusion, unable to walk, needing to be catheterized or diapered, said activist Melody Karr in a release to local media. The possession of cannabis in any amount in Michigan is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a $2000 fine. If Matthew goes to jail and is unable to use cannabis, he will experience a re-admittance and exacerbation of his disease within a matter of days, and death is a real possibility. Other medical cannabis patient-advocates have been killed in exactly this way.
Karr said the Barbers attorney will request leniency in light of Matts condition and the fact that his use is medicinal. But because there is no medical marijuana law in Michigan, and the federal government has interfered extensively in states which do have medical marijuana laws, this is by no means a foolproof tactic.