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Pain free, charge free

by Jane Stebbins

PARK COUNTY – Fred Hopson is about to celebrate his first year of marriage. He owns his own home. He just got a promotion at the Breckenridge property management company for which he works.

And he’s free of the headaches that have plagued him for almost five years.

“It’s been beautiful,” he said. “I feel pretty blessed.”

That’s quite a change from how he felt two years ago, when Park County Sheriff’s officers descended on his Mosquito Gulch home and arrested him for cultivating marijuana in the cellar of his new house. His four vehicles were impounded, a lien was placed against his house, and Hopson found himself in the middle of a debate about the legalities of marijuana being used to alleviate chronic and debilitating pain.

Hopson was arrested Aug. 4, 2000, three months before voters took to the polls to determine the fate of Amendment 20, which would permit physicians to give prescriptions for marijuana to alleviate pain. After the amendment was approved, in November 2000, Hopson was issued a medical marijuana card, which allows him to smoke the herb for the headaches. The card expires July 7, he said, and he doesn’t plan to renew the registration.

Hopson was injured in 1996 in a fall at a construction site in which he broke his skull in 27 places. According to Alison Palmer, a relative, Hopson wasn’t expected to survive the Flight For Life trip to Denver, but he did. Doctors there told friends and relatives he wasn’t expected to survive the night. He did that, too. He wasn’t expected to ever walk, or talk or work or drive. He does it all. The only thing he’s lost in his ordeal is his sense of smell.

“The doctors said it might take five years for my head to heal,” Hopson said, adding that the headaches started disappearing about halfway through his trial this spring. “The headaches sucked the energy out of me. I feel great. It’s been beautiful.”

The charges were dropped because law enforcement didn’t properly follow search warrant procedures, Hopson said.

While he no longer lives with the trial hanging over his head, he has thought he’d be stuck with the headaches for the rest of his life. Muscle relaxants, pain relievers and narcotics did little to alleviate the pain. But marijuana did. He had heard the illegal drug helped some people with chronic pain and tried it. The headaches subsided.

“That’s the only thing that helped it out during all that time,” Hopson said. “This was the only thing I found relief in. All I know is that it’s a medicine that works, and if that was the only thing I could take care of my pain, I thank the Lord someone was able to help me out. And now, I don’t need the prescription anymore.”

Hopson and his wife have their home and cars back, and the charges – both criminal and civil – have been dropped. Yet Hopson said the ordeal wasn’t without a degree of pain all its own.

“It ruined our lives for quite a while – I’m surprised me and my wife got married,” he said of the stress of the legal proceedings. “I’m still so mad about it.”

He and others are happy it’s over.

“I’m so happy that he can move on,” Palmer said. “It was such a tough time.”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at 668-3998 ext. 228 or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.


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