Friday, March 6, 2015
Jeremy Bourque said he’s spent the last year suffering from at least one seizure a month, waking up with a black eye and split tongue after losing control of his body in the middle of the night.
It took him about a week to recover each time, he said.
Port Arthur police raided Bourque’s Port Acres home in February 2014, confiscating three marijuana plants that Bourque said he used to treat his epilepsy.
A month later, Bourque, 38, was arrested for possession.
On Tuesday, the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office granted Bourque a pretrial diversion, a probation program given as an alternative to prosecution, and agreed he could legally use marijuana as a treatment for his epilepsy.
It’s definitely a first for Jefferson County authorities to OK such a use.
Bourque’s attorney, Dustin Galmor, presented to prosecutors an affidavit from Dr. Denis Petro, a certified neurologist with 30 years of experience studying the effects of cannabis on various conditions, including epilepsy.
The 20-page medical document caused First Assistant District Attorney Cory Crenshaw to make an exception in Bourque’s case.
As part of his one-year probation, Bourque must take monthly drug tests, said Crenshaw. As long as the drug tests do not come back positive for any illegal drug other than marijuana, Bourque will not face prosecution, Crenshaw said.
“The main thing is they’re going to let him use marijuana,” Galmor said. “It’s the humane thing to do.”
Bourque said he’s used marijuana for the past 20 years to treat his epilepsy, often going five to six years without a seizure.
He said this past year, without the marijuana, has been one of his worst “health-wise.”
Bourque said he spent around $300 a week for epilepsy medicine that made him feel “removed from reality.” Even worse, he said the medicine didn’t stop or lessen the severity of his seizures as effectively as marijuana.
“The worst thing I’ve ever had come from using marijuana is getting caught with it,” he said.
Before Bourque started using marijuana, doctors believed his night terrors, which often resulted in self-inflicted bruises, were a result of depression, he said.
The antidepressants given to Bourque did not improve his condition, which Bourque eventually discovered was nocturnal front lobe epilepsy, the outcome of a 1990 head injury, according to Petro’s affidavit.
“While anti-convulsant treatment for this syndrome is used, up to half of the patients continue to have seizures despite medical treatment,” Petro wrote in the legal document.
Petro went on to say that Bourque’s twice-daily use of cannabis oil should be “sufficient” to control his seizures.
The result of Bourque’s case is atypical in Texas, where medical marijuana is illegal.
Two bills have been filed this Texas legislative session by Republicans, Rep. Stephanie Klick and Sen. Kevin Eltife, to legalize the use of a small dosage of cannabis oil by epileptic patients.
Had Bourque’s case gone to trial, Galmor said he would have argued necessity defense – a defense that allows a person to act in a criminal manner during an emergency.
Bourque’s self-harming seizures are arguably an emergency, Galmor said.
Though the year has been difficult, Bourque and his family are grateful for the outcome.
“I’m fortunate that it happened at this time,” Bourque said, referring to his arrest at a time when current political discussion is leaning towards the legalization of medicinal marijuana.