- Associated Press - Sunday, June 15, 2014

OZARK, Mo. (AP) - A southwest Missouri man who’s featured with his wife on a billboard supporting legalization of marijuana says the drug helped him deal with spinal disorders.

Daryl Bertrand of Ozark suffers from degenerative disc disease and stenosis of the spine. He has undergone three spinal surgeries and took prescription painkillers to manage the pain until he suffered what he said were potentially deadly side effects.

“I can’t take anything; my liver shuts down,” Bertrand said. “On the second liver failure, they finally attributed it to the narcotic, the medication.”

Bertrand started growing marijuana in early 2007 when he thought his options to treat the pain in his spine had been exhausted.

“It was keeping me working, it was keeping me a functioning member of society, along with my chiropractor,” Bertrand said.

In 2010, officers served a search warrant on a building the Bertrands owned in Ozark and where he grew marijuana for his own use. Officers found 47 marijuana plants. He and his wife, Patricia, were each charged with producing a controlled substance. They entered guilty pleas, and Daryl received an eight-year suspended sentence and was placed on probation; Patricia was sentenced to five years, and her sentence was also suspended. Their probationary periods expire this year.

News of their arrests and convictions led them to close their playground equipment business.

“There was just no way the business could survive,” Patricia Bertrand said.

The court battles led the Bertrands to learn more about Show Me Cannabis, and the two became activists for the decriminalization of marijuana and legal reform of laws regulating the drug. The Bertrands now appear on the billboard for Show-Me Cannabis, which plans to file an initiative petition with the Missouri attorney general seeking a marijuana decriminalization proposal for ballots in 2016, The Springfield News-Leader reported (https://sgfnow.co/1mNma0F ).

Bertrand, who says he hasn’t used marijuana since his 2010 arrest because it would violate his probation, walks with a cane and says he struggles with pain.

“I suffer. I’m totally miserable,” Bertrand said.

The billboard along Interstate 44 was installed before Memorial Day.

“There’s tens of thousands of people similar to me in this state, with some sort of medical condition that this plant will help,” he said.

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Information from: Springfield News-Leader, https://www.news-leader.com


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