Pubdate: Tue, 15 Sep 2015
Source: Chronicle Herald (CN NS)
Copyright: 2015 The Halifax Herald Limited
Author: Evan Webster


A group of activists from the Maritimers Unite for Medical Marijuana
Society staged a protest outside the law courts on Upper Water Street
in Halifax on Monday.

The crowd was rallying in support of James MacDonald, a 36-year-old
Stellarton man who was sentenced in January to 60 days in jail for
growing marijuana plants in his home. MacDonald has Crohn's disease
and says he needs the drug to ease his chronic pain. His medical
marijuana licence was expired at the time of his arrest.

MacDonald was scheduled to appeal the conviction in court Monday, but
the case was put off until Oct. 1 while he seeks different

Debbie Stultz-Giffin, chairwoman of the society, said the laws
surrounding medical marijuana in Canada are flawed. She said she's
been using cannabis to treat multiple sclerosis for 15 years, and
dealing with Health Canada has always been a hassle.

"Cannabis should be recognized as a legitimate form of medicine for
patients," she said. "That basic premise isn't being respected.
Patients like James are being arrested and sent to jail in direct
violation of their constitutional rights."

Stultz-Giffin said the process to become a licensed medical marijuana
user or grower is lengthy and "full of bureaucratic nonsense." She
said the system forces a lot of patients to live without their
medicine for weeks at a time.

"Section 7 (of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) says we
shouldn't have to choose between our freedom and our health. Health
Canada's program, and the current Conservative government ideology,
directly throws us under the bus."

She said policy-makers everywhere need to change their attitudes when
it comes to medical marijuana.

"A program should be created that's constitutional for all patients
requiring cannabis," said Stultz-Giffin. "Doctors need better
education in terms of the effectiveness of cannabis as medicine.
Ultimately, pulling cannabis out of the Controlled Drugs and
Substances Act is the only answer at this point."

She also said the limited access to doctors who are supportive of
medical marijuana is a problem in Nova Scotia.

"Accessibility to understanding physicians is certainly an issue.
That's the roadblock that stands in the way of people legally
purchasing cannabis as medicine. Physicians move, pass away and
retire. If they were previously supporting a patient, it leaves that
patient in a bit of a quandary to find someone else who will support
their medical need."

She said a lack of physician support is part of why MacDonald was
arrested, and that plenty of Nova Scotians are in the same boat.

"That's where James was at when he was arrested. He lost his physician
and was desperately searching for another. But the real injustice here
is that there are many other patients in this province who have been
caught in the same grey area. Ultimately, we feel the provincial
Justice Department should develop a mandate with the RCMP to stop
arresting and prosecuting patients. It's a horrendous waste of
taxpayer dollars at the end of the day."
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