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Michigan grandmother arrested for expired medical marijuana card

Delores Saltzman. (Courtesy of Mark Saltzman)

For 80-year-old Michigan resident Delores Saltzman, medical marijuana is a lifeline.

The grandmother suffers from arthritis — which she refers to as her friend “Arthur” — and diverticulitis, and uses the plant to ease her suffering.

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“It takes away your pain, and it takes your mind off your pain so you can do what you want to do,” she told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson.

Delores’ son, Mark Saltzman, does not personally use marijuana, but has witnessed firsthand the positive effect that it has on his mother over the years.

“Growing up … there were some deeper problems Mom had, and when she smoked, her mood changed,” Mark said. “She lightened up, she was able to clean the house, it just helped her.”

Mark said that his mother’s doctor prescribed Delores strong pain relievers like opioids, but that these made her sick.

“I watched it heal her from major surgeries, it gave her an appetite,” he said.

Police show up

Delores, and her use of the medicine, ran into a problem recently. A police officer came to the house to return Delores’ great-granddaughter’s lost phone and debit card, but soon became more interested in the smell of marijuana coming from inside the house.

“This officer bullied her way into my mom’s house,” Mark said.

The Saltzmans said that the officer seemed to believe that Delores was covering for someone else in the house.

“I let her in, because I wanted to prove to her that there was nobody in here but me,” Delores said.

Unfortunately for Delores, there was one problem — she let her medical marijuana card expire nearly a decade ago.

“I was mad at the federal and the state government for messing around with people, busting them when they had their cards,” she explained.

While the officer looked around the house for evidence of marijuana, Delores made sure to get the dishes done, and even had the officer help her put a couple items away, since, as she realized, “I’m gonna be gone a while.”

“After a while I was down to one pan, and I was sick of doing dishes, and I say to her, ‘Honey, are you ready to go?'” Delores recalled.

She and the officer then left for jail. Delores said that she was in a bit of a state of shock, as she had never been arrested before.

“The only time that I was ever in jail was to take my husband his cigarettes and clean underwear” after a drunk driving incident, she said.

However, she made the best of it — Delores spent the night singing, praying, meditating, whistling, and trying to stay warm by walking around.

He questions why the officer decided to take an old woman to jail instead of issuing her a citation, but noted that the incident, which has gained national attention, has drawn attention to the movement for marijuana legalization.

“Her choice was to drag [my mom] to jail, make her spend the night there,” Mark said. “But what she inadvertently did was [give] my mom and me a platform to say, ‘Look, it’s time to legalize this everywhere. No one should have to go through this.'”

A medical marijuana card and legalization

In November, Michigan residents will vote on whether or not to make recreational marijuana legal — and as far as Mark is concerned, the only thing standing in the way of legalization is a stigma that pot is dangerous and shameful to use.

“No one should be ashamed for using this medicine — let’s get rid of the stigma around marijuana, let it help the people who need it,” Mark said.

“People are coming out of the woodwork now,” Delores said, referring to other elderly family members who have told her that they are also proponents of medical marijuana.

In the meantime, Mark helped his mother to renew her medical marijuana card, and she plans to begin smoking her pipe again as soon as the card arrives.

Always one to look on the bright side, Delores is not letting the experience get her down.

“I’m not gonna lose my joy over this — and on top of that, it’s funnier than hell,” she said.

After all, she said, if you can’t laugh about life’s ups and downs, you may as well give up.

“If you don’t laugh at yourself and other people, you’re just a dumb ass,” she said.

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