Hardy Macia, libertarian, activist, loses his battle with cancer

Last modified: 5/15/2013 7:35:15 AM
Hardy Macia, whose soft whisper boldly asked Gov. Maggie Hassan to allow cancer patients in need of relief to grow their own marijuana plants, died in Vermont yesterday after a nine-month fight against Hodgkin’s lymphoma, his brother said last night.

He was 42.

Macia was surrounded by family and friends when he died shortly after 3 p.m. at his aunt’s home in Westford, Vt., said Chris Macia, an accountant who lives in Attleboro, Mass.

“He went peacefully,” Chris said, answering his brother’s cell phone. “But his passions will live on.”

Hardy Macia, a Vermont native who owned a computer software company in Canterbury, had posted a video last week from his hospital bed in Burlington, Vt., asking Hassan to sign a bill allowing for the growth of no more than three marijuana plants by individuals.

Marijuana helped him sleep, Macia said, and other cancer patients have said the drug stimulates their appetite.

The lymphoma, which was first detected last summer in Macia’s neck, had spread to one of his lungs recently, leaving his voice low and soft. Struggling to speak during the video, Macia asked for help from Hassan, a former senator who had approved the home-cultivation measure four years ago, but has since changed her mind after her election last November, and after conferring with law enforcement officials.

“Think about your patients and think about the people and ignore the police unions,” Macia says in the video. “You really need to do this for the people in your state and for the sick and dying. Leave it up to the patients and the doctors, and leave the law enforcement out of it.”

The video brought increased awareness to the issue and thrust Macia, who learned his cancer was terminal just three weeks ago, into the center of the debate.

In an interview with the Monitor five days ago, in between struggling for air through an oxygen mask, Macia reaffirmed his libertarian views, saying, “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’s political views were shaped as a teen, before he attended Drexel University in Philadelphia. He spoke about peace and the war on drugs, which he maintained was a waste of time and money, with no end in sight.

“It’s a failure,” Macia told the Monitor. “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?”

Macia and his close friend, Matt Simon, head of the Marijuana Policy Project, threw their money and energy last year behind libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, the former New Mexico governor who had long preached that government should install a hands-off philosophy.

While lobbying for the legalization of drugs for personal use, Macia last summer was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a treatable form of cancer that left him confident in his chances for recovery.

But the cancer spread over time, leading to a death sentence last month and creating a cruel coincidence that accelerated Macia’s effort to push the law through the Legislature.

Former governor John Lynch twice vetoed a bill legalizing medical marijuana, but Hassan had voted in favor while serving in the Senate, and in fact took things a step further by agreeing that privately growing plants should be legal.

Then, in March, the House overwhelmingly approved the measure by a 286-64 margin, moving the bill to a Senate committee. But Hassan then declared she would veto a bill that allowed homegrown cultivation, saying that state-regulated dispensaries would be the better way to go.

The Senate will hear the amended bill on May 22.

“The committee’s amendment guts the bill, takes away all the immediate protections for patients,” Simon said. “There would be only four dispensaries serving the state and no protection from arrest or even conviction for patients for at least a year, maybe two.”

Simon continued: “I’ll never forget the way Hardy went out fighting. He tried to live his life in a way that reflected his values, and that’s what I’ll remember most.”

Said Chris Macia, “He was one of those people who was so young, but who touched so many lives. It was one of those rare combinations.”

Hardy Macia leaves behind a wife of five years, Heidi, and two stepchildren. Chris Macia said a celebration of his brother’s life will be held in Vermont sometime next month.

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

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