HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html A Health Activist Fights the Power for
Pubdate: Thu, 12 Jun 2003
Source: Westender (Vancouver, CN BC)
Copyright: 2003 WestEnder
Author: Mary Francis Hill
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)


Who: Rielle Capler

What: Community and public health activist who works with The Compassion
Club, which supplies medicinal marijuana to about 2,500 people with severe
illness and chronic pain and offers homeopathic services. She is also on
the board of the newly-created Canadians for Safe Access, a group lobbying
for fair marijuana laws.

Roots: Grew up in Toronto, one of two daughters in a politicized family.
Earned her Masters degree in Health Administration at UBC, interning at a
women's health clinic in Bolivia. She was an organizer in the
anti-globalization and APEC protests at UBC, and works with the Pivot Legal
Society, advocates for low-income people in the Downtown Eastside.

Not just for the patchouli-wearing dreadlocked folks: "People believe
what they see on TV. They believe that if something is dangerous it
would be illegal... But cannabis is not dangerous and it is illegal.
People have to realize that a lot of doctors and a lot of lawyers, and
a lot of people who aren't the (stereotypical pot-smokers) smoke
cannabis. Those people have to start coming out of the closet to
counter that. The only ones coming out are those that fit the typical
stereotype. The fight for legalizing cannabis is so important because
it's fighting hypocrisy."

'Legal' my aunt Fanny: Under Canada's new proposed legislation for the
decriminalization of marijuana, possession of up to 15 grams would be
punishable by a fine, but sentences for growers would increase from seven
to 14 years. Medicinal-marijuana advocates are against the legislation.
"There's nothing good about the proposed decriminalization law. The only
good thing is that people don't get a criminal record. But they're still
punished. If you don't pay your fines, you can have your assets seized,
have your licence taken from you, you can go to jail. Most people don't get
a criminal record, but it's a cash grab. The government will get their
money left right and centre, and of course everyone is going to contest it."

The cannabis cure: Capler first heard about the movement for easing
access to marijuana for people suffering from chronic pain at a
convention in Grand Forks, where she met a director of Vancouver's
Compassion Club. "I had taken an undergrad degree in psychology, and I
was wondering why our health care coverage only covered psychiatry
which doled out pharmaceutical drugs, and didn't cover psychology,
which used more natural or talk therapy. I was wondering why
pharamaceutical drugs are 'mainstream' and covered and natural health
care isn't covered, and it's 'alternative.' To me, it wasn't a big
shock when cannabis was used as an effective medicine."

Guns okay, pot not: "I think U.S. influence has a lot to do with
(obstacles in enacting our drug laws). They have a
multi-billion-dollar budget for their war on drugs. They have a vested
interest in keeping cannabis illegal, and they are exerting influence
over our politicians and Canadian country...but the police have told
us (at the Compassion Club) they have bigger fish to fry. They see as
as more part of the solution, and not the problem."

Vicious cycle: "Health Canada's medical marijuana program is not
working. It has been deemed unconstitutional by the Ontario courts,
because on one hand it is inaccessible. The regulations require two
specialists and one doctor (to confirm diagnosis of chronic pain).
They only are serving 500 Canadians where the Canadian Medical
Association assessed there is at least 400,000 Canadians in need. And
people who have these things are still getting busted, by police and
by criminals. Many of them have been beaten up by thugs and have had
their plants stolen. The people Health Canada gives these to are on
the extreme end of sick, and they're getting hassled."

Scout leader/dealer: "When I have kids I don't want them buying
cannabis from the dangerous types. I want them to buy cannabis from
nice friendly, safe people."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake