Pubdate: Sat, 25 Jan 2014
Source: Irish Times, The (Ireland)
Copyright: 2014 The Irish Times
Author: Mark Hilliard


A man who has had both his eyes removed due to glaucoma has handed
himself in to gardai with a quantity of herbal cannabis in a protest
designed to challenge the law regarding the use of the drug for
medicinal purposes.

Mark Fitzsimons (30) has been completely blind for the past five years
and believes that by being prosecuted for possession he may be able to
avail of free legal aid in order to test legislation.

On Thursday, with the help of his cane and carer, the Dundalk resident
presented himself to gardai with a small quantity of the drug and
requested he be charged with possession in order to secure a court
appearance. Gardai confiscated the substance and issued him with a
formal caution. Once a test confirms it is cannabis , Mr Fitzsimons
will receive a summons to attend court.

"I am delighted; it went really well," he said after emerging from the
Garda station. Medicinal Mr Fitzsimons said he had discovered as a
teenager the medicinal effects of the drug and believes it should be
made available to others.

"More and more studies show that cannabis can be used and is used and
it's the best form of treatment for it [ his condition]," he claimed.
"I also found out it's an anti-inflammatory.

"The older I got the more certain I became. I remember saying this to
people and all they would say is, 'that's illegal'."

He said that while people he spoke to dismissed marijuana as a
recreational drug, he had been given prescription pain killers that
took him six months to come off when he had his second eye removed
five years ago.

Today, he says, he uses cannabis to help alleviate occasional phantom
pains. Glaucoma is a condition that, if untreated, can eventually lead
to total blindness. It results from the over-production of "aqueous
humour" fluid which creates necessary pressure in the eyes. If the
fluid does not drain properly, it causes an increase in pressure which
can damage the optic nerve.

Mr Fitzsimons believes that aside from alleviating pain, cannabis
properties can be used to treat glaucoma  not necessarily through
smoking  by reducing pressure. He says he might have kept his eyes had
cannabis been a medical option. Debate While his theory is bound to
cause debate, his hoped-for legal challenge is designed to do exactly
that. In a prepared statement to gardai, he said it was his conviction
that the drug offered "massive potential benefits" for glaucoma and
other serious illness.

"At the moment I can't challenge the law because I don't have the
money to challenge it, and that is the same for most people who have a
medical situation," he said.

After being processed by gardai he emerged victorious, explaining:
"They said when the analysis comes back, if it's legitimate cannabis I
will receive a summons." He now awaits his day in court. 
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