Medical Marijuana Conflict?

(WSVN) - His seizures make his life difficult, so he started using medical marijuana to help, but then, he was told if he smoked it, he could not qualify for disability. Is that true? It’s tonight’s Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

For 35 years, he led a normal life.

Ersel Linton, medical marijuana conflict: “I was perfectly healthy. Basketball, the last job that I had was a IT director.”

And then, one day, Ersel Linton’s body betrayed him.

Ersel Linton: “I started having the seizures.”

Ersel had developed epilepsy and the terrible seizures that come with it.

Ersel Linton: “I had seizures in the shower, like this, right — here it was from two weeks ago — I fell.”

From busting his head to busting his hand, the sudden seizures kept coming.

Ersel Linton: “Grand mal seizures is the worst that, you know, you could possibly have. You would lose consciousness, you know, you fall, you know, defecate on yourself, urine on yourself. If you would bite your tongue, it’s very scary.”

Ersel was given powerful drugs to control the seizures, which, he says, didn’t stop them and caused serious side effects.

Ersel Linton: “I would just sit and just cry sometimes because, you know, I’m so, so, so, so depressed that, you know?”

Ersel can’t hold a job anymore and applied for disability, so he won’t have to depend on his mother to pay his bills.

Then, as the months of seizures dragged on, his neurologist suggested he try medical marijuana once a day. It worked.

Ersel Linton: “Yes, I have seen a difference in my mood, you know? A difference in my attitude, you know? A difference in my well-being.”

The medical marijuana also helped reduce the number of seizures, but with that good news came devastating news: when Ersel was told smoking medical marijuana ended his chances of getting disability.

Ersel Linton: “She said that it’s clear that I do have a disability, but the fact that I possess the medical marijuana card, you know, denies me from any assistance from the federal government because it’s still an illegal drug.”

Ersel says that made no sense to him since the medical marijuana is safer and more effective than the prescribed drugs.

Ersel Linton: “It’s a lifesaving drug. It is, it is totally, it is totally unfair.”

So does using medical marijuana block you from getting federal disability for your seizures, Howard?

Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: “No, it should not. Now, if you are a pothead and because of it, you don’t work, you don’t get disability, but if you use medical marijuana to treat your seizures, you do get disability. It’s your right, and in this case, I think there was a misunderstanding in the process.”

We contacted SSI.

They said medical marijuana does not disqualify an applicant from getting disability, but even if you are disabled, you could be denied if a judge rules you could work at certain jobs.

Ersel says he can’t even do that.

Howard Finkelstein: “Getting disability is a long, difficult process. About two-thirds of the people get their first application denied. You have to keep fighting, and in Ersel’s case, he has to convince a judge he can’t hold a job because of his seizures, and I think it’s clear he is entitled to benefits.”

And so, Ersel waits for the judge’s decision, stunned at how his life has changed so dramatically since the seizures began.

Ersel Linton: “Who would, like I would have seizures that bad that, you know, I can’t do anything. I can’t even drive.”

We will keep an eye on Ersel’s case and let you know what happens. Good luck, sir.

Now, Ersel is fighting this by himself. If you can find a lawyer to represent you, do it.

Some don’t charge a fee up front but get paid after you win, and they understand how to negotiate the system better than you do.

Speaking of fees, we are free. Our fights are for your rights, and if you are wronged, we will try to wipe away your woes.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
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