Ray Duckler: Fighting for his life, Macia pushes Hassan for medical marijuana

Last modified: 5/13/2013 11:50:23 AM
Hardy Macia speaks in a whisper, gentle like the hills and lake outside the hospital window, yet cruel in the illness it represents.

He sits cross-legged in bed, his mouth and nose covered by an oxygen mask, signing paperwork handed to him by a friend, who’s also an attorney. His family is everywhere: in Macia’s room, where bags of liquid and twisting tubes hang beside his bed, and down the hall in the waiting area, near that window framing Vermont’s serenity.

Macia grew up in Vermont and has lived in Canterbury the past six years. Doctors say he has a month to live, maybe two. The Hodgkin’s lymphoma, detected early, refused to follow the script, the one about recovery from a form of cancer known to be quite treatable.

So, with the cancer now in his lungs and each breath a challenge, Macia wants Gov. Maggie Hassan to hear what he has to say, before it’s too late. He wants cancer patients like himself to have the right to grow their own marijuana, which stimulates appetite and, in Macia’s case, helps him sleep.

He made a video last week aimed at Hassan, who has said she won’t sign a bill allowing citizens to grow pot plants for medical purposes.

Although some family members felt uncomfortable with an outsider standing near Macia, waiting for an interview, the man with libertarian politics and an affable manner had no problem inviting a columnist into his inner circle, where a monitor beeps and nurses move in and out of his room all day.

He wants to talk about this.

“We have all the chiefs of police saying you can’t be doing this medical marijuana thing,” Macia says through his mask. “And she (Hassan) is just bowing to their wishes. I mean, you’re the governor, so stand up for what’s right, and what’s right is (to) give us the freedom to live our lives, where we make the decisions. As long as you’re not hurting anyone, that’s all that matters, and growing some plants is not going to hurt anyone else.”

Macia, 42, owns his own computer software company. He’s married to a woman named Heidi, who has two young children and who he says is in the same Burlington, Vt., hospital, suffering from anxiety over his condition.

He’ll live in Burlington now, to be with aunts and uncles and cousins. He hopes alternative treatments like juicing will give him what two rounds of chemotherapy could not. He’s taking care of personal and financial matters, signing documents, looking to the future his wife and stepchildren might soon face, one without him.

And he’s making sure Hassan and other elected officials know that people like himself have to break the law to find relief.

‘A doctor-patient thing’

“The cops try to get involved and Washington, D.C., is getting involved,” Macia says. “They should just keep their (stuff) out of New Hampshire. Don’t go to talk to the police about it. It’s a doctor-patient thing, then after that, where do you get your medicine? You can buy it through a pharmaceutical company if you want, or you can grow it if you want. Do whatever helps with your pain.”

The awful coincidence here is that Macia was a libertarian, a believer in personal choice when it came to drug use, years before his diagnosis last August. He’s always maintained that the war on drugs has created war in the streets, while doing nothing to stop illegal use.

“It’s a failure,” Macia says. “The first prohibition was a failure. The war on drugs, with all this violence in Mexico, with all this violence in our cities, with cops getting shot in New Hampshire, why a war on drugs?”

He says his libertarian philosophy is, in a sense, part of his DNA, a natural outlook that simply makes sense. But the hostility that marks politics today, the name-calling and lying and cable-news loud mouths, is not who he is, nor is what he represents.

Ask Matt Simon of Goffstown, close friends with Macia, who works for the Marijuana Policy Project and has spearheaded efforts in New England to mainstream medical marijuana use. He and Macia pooled their efforts to move Gary Johnson into the White House last year, spending money on his campaign and spreading his libertarian message.

Emphasis on ideas

“Hardy was not one who personalizes politics,” Simon said. “It’s about the philosophy more than demonizing this or that person. His emphasis is always on the ideas. Gary Johnson had a saying, that he promised if elected governor he would put issues first, politics last. Hardy loved that saying.”

Added Hardy, “These politicians are all about politics, not about living free. Washington, Concord, Montpelier – it’s all over the place. It makes you mad because you spend trillions of dollars on wars, all over the world that do next to nothing to bring an end to violence. We are not any closer to peace.”

Personal battle

His current fight, now more personal than ever, is to relieve cancer patients’ pain, stimulate their appetite, help in any way possible by legalizing a method of convenience.

Former governor John Lynch opposed legalizing medicinal marijuana, and Hassan has backed off her former stance of allowing sick people to grow it.

Now, she wants the distribution more closely regulated, through dispensaries, which Macia says will take at least two years to establish.

“It seems like the police have her in their back pocket,” Macia said.

Meanwhile, his condition has grown worse over the past few weeks, leaving him tired and frail, with problems breathing and sleeping.

He says he sleeps better after using pot, obtained illegally, of course. He eats pot cookies and also vaporizes the pot with high heat, unable to smoke it because the cancer has spread to his lungs.

He doesn’t use it often, maybe once every three weeks. He realizes other sick people need it more than he does. He sees a simple answer.

He sucks in oxygen, then removes his mask to speak more clearly.

“It’s a plant,” Macia whispers. “You grow a plant cheaply, and it’s not hard to do.”

(Ray Duckler can be reached at 369-3304 or rduckler@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @rayduckler.)


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