Pubdate: Wed, 2 Jul 2008
Source: Chronicle Herald (CN NS)
Copyright: 2008 The Halifax Herald Limited
Author: Monique Muise
Cited: Maritimers Unite for Medical Marijuana
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal - Canada)
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Canada)
Bookmark: (Mandatory Minimum Sentencing)


Marijuana Proponents Buzzing Over Bill C-26

There was more than one way to get baked in the sun in Halifax on Canada Day.

A telltale sweet smell drifted through the air as more than 200 
people gathered on the Dartmouth Common for Halifax's 13th annual 
Cannabis Day picnic, held every July 1.

They seemed relaxed and happy as they enjoyed the warm weather, 
played Hacky Sack or sat together on blankets under nearby trees.

One young man named Jordan said he had recently moved to Halifax from 
Ottawa and wanted to get a taste of the city's Canada Day events.

"This is really interesting," he said, standing near the 
ever-lengthening line for hotdogs. "I've never seen anything like 
this before. I mean, everyone's pretty open about it."

While many seemed to be drawn to the grassy hill for the laid-back 
ambiance, there was also a political undercurrent to the festivities. 
The major buzz this year surrounded Bill C-26, which was tabled in 
the House of Commons in November 2007. The legislation would amend 
the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to include harsher penalties 
for possession and distribution of illegal drugs, including marijuana.

"It's absolutely outrageous," said Debbie Shultz-Griffin, who uses 
the drug to help deal with her multiple sclerosis.

"It would see people imprisoned for a mandatory period of six months 
for cultivating as little as one marijuana plant. It leaves a lot of 
medical marijuana patients in really precarious situations . . . 
living in constant fear of having their doors kicked in by law 
enforcement agencies."

Ms. Shultz-Griffin serves as president of Maritimers Unite for 
Medical Marijuana, a non-profit organization formed in 2003 that 
advocates for the therapeutic use of the cannabis plant. So far, only 
2,432 Canadians have received permission from Health Canada to use 
marijuana for medicinal purposes.

John Cook, the vice-chairman of the group, called the bill 
"outlandish" and unconstitutional, adding that polls have shown that 
most taxpayers support medicinal marijuana.

"They're going to be spending more money on policing and the courts," 
he said. "So there seems to be a dichotomy between what people want 
and what the government is doing."

As the afternoon wore on, a number of people suffering from chronic 
illnesses took the stage to tell the crowd about their personal 
struggles to gain legal access to the drug.

Jordan, who described himself as a casual user, said he agreed with 
the message they were trying to get across.

"There's a lot of political red tape surrounding this issue," he 
said. "I think it's all just a matter of stigma. We should all be 
able to make choices about what we consume." 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake