The Waterloo / Cedar Falls Courier
Tuesday, January 28, 1996, Page 1
Fax: 319-291-2069

Judge stays decision on
medicinal marijuana user

Courier Staff Writer


     A Waterloo man who claims he must use marijuana to control a health condition, even though it violates terms of his probation, will get another day in Black Hawk County court.
     Judge Jon Fister agreed Monday to stay his decision sending Allen Helmers to a violators program in Newton until a hearing can be held on whether the facility can treat his condition.
     Helmers has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a mysterious condition whose sufferers claim they are in almost constant pain.  He also has back problems after his motorcycle was struck by a drunken driver in 1994.
     He is allergic to opiate-type drugs, like morphine, that are commonly prescribed to treat chronic pain, and contends the only thing that alleviates his condition is smoking marijuana.
     The 48-year-old, however, has been on probation since 1995 for possession of marijuana with intent to deliver and failure to have an Iowa drug tax stamp.
     The County Attorney's Office maintains there is no medical evidence marijuana is a pain-killing substance and that Helmers, who has admitted using marijuana for at least 30 years, needs to be treated for his addiction.
     It recommended placement in the violators program, a semi-lockdown-style residential center, because the facility has a staff member who also has fibromyalgia and is familiar with steps for treating the condition.
     Fister’s original order sending Helmers to the violators program would have required the facility to submit a plan for treating his pain within two weeks of his arrival there.
     Helmer’s attorney, Thomas Frerichs of Waterloo, immediately filed for the stay after seeing Fister’s decision Monday, demanding the violator’s program demonstrate in advance it can treat Helmers.
     A hearing date has yet to be set.  If the violators program is unable to manage Helmers’ condition, he is to be released on unsupervised probation.