UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
I, Harold F. Margolin, declare as follows:
1. I was born on August 17, 1932 in Hudson, New York. I moved to Los Angeles, California, at the age of 19, and married my wife Marcia. I served a tour of duty with the United States Army from 1952-1954 in Europe during the Korean War. I returned to California in 1954. I then attended the University of California, Berkeley and graduated in 1957 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration. Marcia and I have two children: Robin, aged 46, and Jeff, aged 44.
2. After graduating from college, I worked for five years in transportation and traffic management. I then worked as a purchasing agent for various swimwear manufacturers, and eventually became a vice-president of Metric Products, Inc. In 1969 I started a soft leather clothing company, Yucca Trail Sportswear, which became very successful. In 1973 my family and I moved the business to Santa Cruz, California. I owned and operated Yucca Trail Sportswear until 1978. I then worked as a small business consultant until 1989. I bought a mini-storage business with two partners and I acted as the managing partner. In 1994 we sold that business and I retired, partly because of increasing back pain.
3. I am a long time active member of the Santa Cruz community. I was a volunteer business consultant to the California Grey Bears for seven years, providing organizational advice. I also served on the Board of Directors of the Santa Cruz Community Legal Clinic for two years. From 1984-1994, I served on the Board of Directors of the Santa Cruz Community Counseling Center and was the Chair of the Board of Directors for four of those years. For the past five years I have been a member of the Board of Directors of the Live at Home Foundation. As part of that service, I have been involved in the County’s Long Term Care Integration Project, a pilot project for the long term care of disabled people and seniors, where I currently volunteer approximately four hours a week as a senior intern.
4. Around 1993, I began to experience a persistent and annoying cold feeling in my left arm and hand, often accompanied by numbness and a tingling sensation. I was also having frequent pain in my back and neck and weakness in my triceps. I have always been a very physically active person and the symptoms I was experiencing made exercising increasingly difficult. For many years I had been walking three miles each day, but I was finding that after a quarter of a mile my left arm would go dead. Also, I was experiencing increasing spasticity in my legs making it difficult to walk. Finally in 1995 I went to see Dr. Arnold Leff, M.D., my primary care physician, to discuss my symptoms. Dr. Leff felt that I probably had cervical disc disease and sent me to Dr. Josh Novic, M.D., a neurologist, for an evaluation. Dr. Novic’s neurologic examination resulted in an assessment of myelopathy. He felt that the myelopathy was likely caused by spondylosis or disk protrusion. Dr. Novic ordered an MRI which he said revealed “fairly severe narrowing of the cord” as a result of degenerative cervical disc disease with spondylosis C-3 through C-6 and a small spinal canal with myelopathy at and just below C-5 to C-6. The MRI also noted abnormally small neuroforamina. Dr. Novic indicated that I would ultimately need a neurosurgical decompression of the spinal cord and recommended a consultation with a neurosurgeon. I was apprehensive about surgery and after talking about my options with Dr. Leff I decided to try an extensive regimen of physical therapy, massage, and acupuncture.
5. Unfortunately none of these methods worked to relieve my pain or alleviate the numbness and tingling, and in August of 1996 I was referred to Dr. Charles J. Scibetta, M.D., who is a neurosurgeon, for an evaluation. Consistent with Dr. Novic’s advice, Dr. Scibetta recommended that I have an anterior cervical discectomy and osteophytectomy, or in the alternative a more risky procedure called an anterior corpectomy, which might hold a better chance of decompressing the spinal cord. I weighed my options and decided to go ahead with the less risky discectomy and ostephytectomy, which meant a double cervical fusion at the C5-6 and C6-7 levels.
6. Dr. Scibetta performed my surgery on October 25, 1996. During the procedure, bony ridges were drilled out and removed along with the annulus at the C5-6 and C6-7 levels, and bone plugs grafted from my right leg were inserted. I was released the next day. However, the next day I began having serious problems. My right leg began to give out on me and I fell twice. By the sixth day after the surgery both of my hands, legs and especially my feet were tingly and numb. By the seventh and eighth day I had great difficulty walking because my feet were completely numb and I felt an electric-like sensation in my back and going down my legs. On the ninth day after my surgery I could barely even crawl and I was rushed to the hospital where I had an emergency MRI. The MRI showed prevertebral soft tissue swelling from C-5 through C-7 and there was evidence that the spinal canal was compromised at the C-5 to C-6 level and at the C-6 to C-7 level. Dr. Scibetta felt that I probably had cervical cord edema and I was placed on Solu-Medrol IV and then Prednisone. Dr. Novic speculated that my spinal cord may have suffered a contusion or be “stunned” as a result of the surgery. I spent five difficult days in the hospital.
7. While I slowly improved after I went back to the hospital and was placed on a high dose of steroids I have never returned to the level of strength and mobility I was at prior to my surgery. I felt angry and depressed after my surgery because, while I understood that this surgery doesn’t always provide significant relief, I had not considered the possibility that I would feel much worse and be in even more pain after the operation.
8. After my operation I lived in constant, acute pain for months. For weeks I could barely walk and when I could walk again I was plagued with severe spasticity in both of my legs as well as weakness that has never completely subsided. As I “recovered” from my surgery I continued to have limited feeling in my hands and feet and had difficulty maintaining my balance. The top parts of my feet burned persistently, which made walking and wearing shoes excruciating. My pain was so overwhelming that I resigned from the Civil Grand Jury on which I was selected to serve a few months before my surgery.
9. In 1996, a month after the surgery, I was diagnosed with chronic peripheral neuropathy with concomitant pain in my hands and feet and because my surgery had not alleviated my condition, a continued diagnosis of chronic myelopathy secondary to cervical spondylosis with narrowing of the spinal canal. At this time I began experiencing other neurological symptoms as a result of the post-operative edema including difficulty swallowing and difficulty speaking. The coming months were filled with a rigorous schedule of physical therapy, pool therapy and therapy for my dysphagia and dysphonia. I slowly began to build up some of my strength again over the next six months but I continued to experience numbness in may hands an feet, a spastic gait and diminished balance and I had to use a cane for support and balance. I began taking Tai Chi to work on my balance, but I had to participate in the class while sitting down. Over the next year while my symptoms did not improve they remained fairly stable at the plateau I had reached about six months after my surgery. However, by mid 1998 I felt my condition once again begin to deteriorate.
10. In the years following my spinal surgery, my pain and my resulting immobility often left me depressed, especially as my condition began to worsen in 1998. As a result of increasing pain in my left leg and foot I was often unable to exercise and I gained weight. I felt like I had become utterly dependent on others for my care. Pain, the thought of pain, and the fear of persistent or increasing pain consumed me. I began losing hope of maintaining any sort of normalcy in my life.
11. In 1998, my accountant, who was suffering from a terminal illness, told me that medicinal marijuana helped alleviate the pain that he suffered. I decided to try it, as nothing else seemed to work well for me. The relief I felt was almost immediate. I came to find that even a small dose of medical marijuana substantially alleviated my pain and did so without causing harsh side effects. Medical marijuana worked so well for me that my obsession with pain began to fade.
12. I discussed my experience with medical marijuana with Dr. Leff and he described some of the ways he had seen marijuana benefit other patients who were suffering. Dr. Leff assented to my continued use of marijuana to treat my pain, and he agreed to track my progress on this medication.
13. In 1999 my accountant who introduced me to medical marijuana died. Up until that time I had been getting my medical marijuana from him. For a while thereafter, I found another source of medical marijuana, but that person was later arrested and I was subsequently left without a supply of medicine. When I was forced to stop using medical marijuana for lack of supply my condition deteriorated. I was frightened to purchase marijuana on the streets or from anyone I did not know, and I was forced to stop using medical marijuana. My pain was so intense that I realized that I really needed to get some help.
14. In 1999 I began to see Dr. Leff frequently regarding my increasing pain, numbness and spasticity. Dr. Leff prescribed various medications to deal with my symptoms and the resulting depression including, Elavil, Vioxx, Zoloft and Pamelor. While I had some success, especially with the Pamelor, I had difficulty tolerating the side-effects of these medications and my pain persisted. In June of 1999 Dr. Leff prescribed Neurontin (a neural painkiller) and we began experimenting to find a dosage that would work for me. I worked up to taking 800 milligrams of this medication, which is one quarter of the maximum dosage. The 800 mg. would only last for six to seven hours and then my pain would return. Dr. Leff increased the dosage to 1200 mg., but I was unable to tolerate this heightened dosage and began to lose control of my muscles and limbs, jerking and lurching uncontrollably.
15. Having for a time experienced effective pain relief without negative side effects by using medical marijuana, I was determined not to return to a life of constant agony. Accordingly, I began asking people about ways I could obtain a safe, new supply of medical marijuana, and learned about the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM).
16. WAMM is a patient collective operating in Santa Cruz with the permission and under the authority of the City and County governments. In July 2000, in accordance with the rules of the collective, I obtained a written recommendation for medical marijuana from Dr. Leff, and joined WAMM as a member. Before WAMM’s garden was destroyed by the federal government last fall, I worked in the cooperative garden, trimming the medical marijuana plants. I also volunteer in the office, interviewing prospective members, helping collect membership data and medical information, and I attend WAMM’s weekly member meetings.
17. WAMM has had a profound effect on my life and well-being. Before joining WAMM I had great difficulty coping, physically and emotionally. I had gone from being an active member of the community to being an invalid. WAMM not only offers me the medicine that combats my pain so I can resume life, but it also provides me with a community of people who understand my condition and support my struggles.
18. In accordance with WAMM’s rules, I obtain my marijuana only from WAMM, and I never allow anyone else to use my medicine. I only use the medicine obtained through WAMM within the State of California.
19. When I was purchasing medical marijuana on my own it was a financial burden; and often I could not afford to buy enough medical marijuana to effectively manage my pain. As a member of WAMM, however, I do not have to pay for my medicine, and the amount of medicine I receive and use is determined by my medical needs, not my economic means of the moment. As a result of WAMM’s cooperative garden, I not only improved my financial stability but I also improved my health and well-being.
20. My wife and children are very supportive of my use of medical marijuana and my membership in WAMM. My family has witnessed the dramatic ways in which marijuana has improved my health and the new lease on life that WAMM has afforded me. I don’t know exactly how or why medical marijuana helps control my pain, but I describe its effect like this: the marijuana helps me to separate myself from my pain; it puts the pain someplace else where, although it doesn’t disappear, I can manage it, and go on with my daily routine. I realize that my symptoms are not going to go away and because of my degenerative disc disease, I will likely deal with increasing pain and difficulty walking, but I don’t think I would consider another surgery to relieve my symptoms. I continue to see Dr. Leff regularly to monitor my symptoms and work to find the right combination of medication and therapy to maintain a productive life. Medical marijuana is one tool, an effective one for me, in the range of treatments available. Currently I am able to exercise and can take a 30 minute walk with my cane every day. Physical activity is especially important to my health since I suffered a heart attack in 2000. Without marijuana, I am rendered largely immobile.
21. The federal government’s raid of the WAMM facilities in September 2002 has been devastating for WAMM members. Since the raid, I have observed increasing anxiety, frustration and fear among the members over the prospect that they will not be able to get their medicine. I have talked with many WAMM members who are losing all hope and suffering increasing pain.
22. The raid has severely limited the amount of medicine that is available to WAMM members, including myself. Before the raid, my dosage was 7 grams a week. This dose allowed me to take approximately 24 puffs a day to alleviate my pain. Since the raid, my ration has decreased to 5 grams a week, or 16 puffs a day and five gel capsules. The reduced dosage has resulted in increased pain for me, as it has for many members of the collective. If WAMM is not able to once again cultivate its garden, most of its members will be unable to get the medicine that provides them enormous relief. The misery, suffering, and even death that
will result are hard to imagine. I, for one, do not know how I would cope without this safe, affordable supply of medicine.
I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States of America and the State of California that the foregoing is true and correct to the best of my knowledge, and that this declaration was executed on this ___ day of April, 2003, in Santa Cruz, California.
Harold F. Margolin
Copyright Women's Alliance for Medical Marijuana 2007 - 2008