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Charged ex-soldier says marijuana only relief for seizures

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GASTONIA, N.C. -- A former Army soldier is igniting a debate over North Carolina's ban on medical marijuana.

Joshua Cook served a tour of duty in Iraq. The former MP now suffers from seizures and says marijuana is the only drug that helps. His decision to self-medicate, however, has landed him in trouble with the law.

Cook received a medical discharge from the Army. His records show a diagnosis of epilepsy.

“For some reason, I don't know what happened, we were going to chow one day and my battle buddies say I just fell down and started shaking,” Cook said.

Cook says marijuana made the seizures stop, he went eight months without one. But in January the police showed up.

“They asked if they could search the house. I was like, ‘yeah man, I don't see no reason why you can't,’” Cook said. “He found my electric grinder. I was using a coffee bean grinder for weed.”

Cook was arrested and charged with two counts of marijuana possession. Despite his medical discharge from the Army, police say the law is the law.

“The state of North Carolina does not recognize the medical use of marijuana so we have to enforce the laws as they are,” said Donna Lasher, of the Gastonia Police Department. “We don't change the law. We have to enforce what's there.

Medical use of marijuana is currently allowed in 14 states but not North Carolina. Cook hopes someday it will be so he can stop his seizures legally.

“I’ve tried every medication known to man to stop seizures and none of them work,” he said. “Medically speaking, you smoke something and you don't have them for eight months. That seems to work.”

Cook's next court appearance on the marijuana charges is set for Sept. 8 at the Gaston County Courthouse.

The possession charge is a misdemeanor. If convicted, Cook could face jail time, but his attorney says that’s unlikely.

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