Medical marijuana patient Jarvis Shead protests jailing of his caregiver, Erick Schmuckal

On March 31, Erick Schmuckal was taken from a Broomfield courtroom to a cell for violating his probation by acting as a medical-marijuana patient and caregiver, as he's licensed to do in Colorado.

Yesterday, Schmuckal told us about his three weeks-plus in jail, as well as his upcoming fights against marijuana cultivation charges and what he sees as unlawful incarceration. But even though his business has been destroyed, he says the person suffering most in this situation is Jarvis Shead, a cerebral palsy sufferer who's the most ill of his patients.

Today: Shead's story.

"I'm from Denver, and I'm 42 years old," Shead says. Describing his health, he notes that "there are several different types of cerebral palsy that can affect you in different ways -- your motor skills, your speech, your muscles. Mine mainly affects the lower extremities of my body. But I do have very bad spasms. And about eighteen years ago, I was hit by a drunk driver coming home from work in my wheelchair, and that caused everything to get a lot worse."

Nevertheless, Shead is determined to lead a full life despite his condition. As he puts it, "cerebral palsy can overwhelm you if you allow it to. But I'm doing everything I can to fight it, and the use of medical marijuana has been a big help to me. It really helps control my spasms and my arthritis and my chronic pain."

For Shead, the legalization of medical marijuana in Colorado was a godsend. "It made things a lot easier, because I didn't have to deal with the street and not knowing what I was getting," he says.

Still, after meeting Schmuckal four years ago, he learned that not all medical marijuana caregivers are created equal.

"Before Erick, no one had ever grown anything for my specific needs," he allows. "We were able to sit down together and determine what strain would work best for the problems I was having."

The combination Schmuckal created has worked wonders, Shead says. "It was like taking a vitamin in the morning. It gave me energy. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and it's so cold that my back locks up -- I can't move. So I have to medicate before I can even get out of bed -- loosen up my muscles and my joints. And that lets me get on with my day.

"My only problem with some caregivers and dispensaries is that they aren't educated enough and don't really know what strain does what," he continues. "So it's hit or miss, and most of them are pulled too early, so they're harsh. That's what I like about Erick's strains. His are never harsh. They're always smooth, and they do what they're supposed to do -- calm down my spasms and make it so I can be functional.

"I have a four-year-old daughter who I like to spend a lot of time with, and I'd rather be on marijuana than have to take all those pain killers, because the more you take, the more they eat up your liver and your kidneys and all that. I take them if I absolutely need to, but if I don't need to -- if I have a better alternative -- I don't."

Late last month, Shead shared observations like these with a senate committee collecting public commentary about House Bill 1284, a measure intended to regulate the medical marijuana industry.

"That was my first trip down there, but I plan on going anytime I'm needed," he says. "It's a necessary thing, and a lot of disabled people in the community use it."

He was pleased that the lawmakers seemed to be tuned in to what he was saying. "I believe there were two disabled people with problems speaking who came up there before me, and I don't know if they completely understood them. But when I came up and started speaking, and they could fully understand what I was saying, I felt like, yes, they were listening. And I felt like this was something they needed to know and needed to hear from somebody who uses medical marijuana to be able to function."

His daily routine has been made more difficult in recent months by Schmuckal's myriad of legal problems, including a raid of his home, his jailing, and what he describes as the theft of his stock by a friend while he was behind bars. Shead has been able to get marijuana from other sources in the meantime, but the results haven't been entirely positive.

"I've had to use medicine that is not all the way done and just isn't the same quality," he says. "It helps a little bit, but it doesn't do what Erick's does for me. He looks at the patient he's working for and with, he asks them what their needs are, he asks them what kind of pain they have, and then he comes up with the strain that works best for them and takes it from there. He has a few clients who are chronically disabled, and he meets their needs as well. He's the best caregiver a person like me could ever have come across, and I love him to death. He's been a great blessing in my life.

"It's really a travesty that they would do something like this to Erick" he adds. "I realize there are people out there who are just growing marijuana to be growing it. But Erick is trying to do his best to help people who really need this medication for what it's meant for. He's not breaking any rules or laws or anything. He's trying to do nothing but good."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts