HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Archaic Pot Law Deserves To Burn
Pubdate: Wed, 12 Jan 2000
Source: Calgary Sun (CA AB)
Copyright: 2000, Canoe Limited Partnership
Contact:  2615 12 Street N.E., Calgary, Alberta T2E 7W9
Fax: (403) 250-4180
Author: Lyn Cockburn -- Winnipeg Sun

Suffering Could Be Eased

Fifteen years ago in Vancouver, the 40-something librarian at my local
library confided to me that she regularly bought marijuana.

It seems her husband whom I had mistaken for her father, so old did he
look, was suffering from inoperable cancer. He was as his halting
steps and frail body announced, dying. Indeed, he was soon bed ridden
and six months later, he was dead.

In the meantime, she bought pot for him. It was, I remember her
saying, the only thing that gave him a real respite from the pain. The
prescription drugs, she continued, gave some relief but not what he
needed. If he got the amount of drugs he actually needed the dosage
would kill him.

He did not want to die, she said. He wanted only to live his last days
as free from pain as possible. And he did. Thanks to his wife and her

Occasionally the dealer would go on holiday, as dealers do and she'd
have to find another supplier. Why, I asked naively, doesn't your
husband's doctor just OK his usage of pot?

Illegal, she said succinctly, smiling a little because she was aware
of the illegality of her going out on the street to buy marijuana.

Still is illegal. Fifteen years later, people with a terminal illness,
cancer, AIDS, Hepatitis C, people in extreme pain are not much closer
to being granted permission to smoke marijuana.

Yes, Health Canada permits 16 Canadians to smoke marijuana for medical

Rob Brown, 43, is one of them. After two days of sitting on Parliament
Hill, the Ottawa man, armed only with a blanket, warmed only by the
Centennial Flame, was given permission to smoke marijuana. Suffering
from Hep C and cancer, he was protesting Canada's marijuana laws --
which prevent people like him from smoking pot legally.

Idiotically, Brown has already been busted. In December 1998, the
Ontario Provincial Police raided his home and seized marijuana plants,
leaves, seeds and growing equipment. He and his wife were charged with
possession, production and trafficking. The trial will begin on June

Brown may be dead by then. He has gone from 218 pounds to 135 and
suffers from pain, nausea, dry heaves, diarrhea and cramping.

Unlike my well-heeled librarian friend, Brown does not have the money
to continually buy marijuana on the street. His wife's part-time
restaurant job doesn't buy much other than basic necessities.

And why oh why should Brown or any other person suffering debilitating
pain risk arrest as they buy marijuana on the street or grow it at

In their final days, terminal patients in extreme pain will be shot
full of morphine or whatever other drug Canadian law allows. Morphine
is of course illegal. You and I may not indulge at will. Our doctor
has to say we need it before we'll be allowed so much as the tiniest
amount. And of course, Brown is only one in a long line of terminally
ill patients to say that conventional (what's conventional about
morphine -- it is after all addictive) drugs do not do the job in the
same way that marijuana does.

And it is the patient's concerns which are paramount here. If a dying
man says he wants to smoke marijuana to lessen his agony, let him. If
he finds that pot calms him as it alleviates pain, so much the better.

There was something so insane, so convoluted, so twisted about Brown's
dilemma that I can but hope he's read enough Franz Kafka to fully
appreciate his situation.

So simple is the solution of course, that the mind cannot cope with
the fact that 15 years after my librarian friend went out on the
streets of Vancouver to buy marijuana for her dying husband, another
man had to do a sit-in on Parliament Hill to focus our attention on
the idiocy of our laws.

Let doctors prescribe marijuana for their dying patients. Home grown,
purchased, whatever.

Meanwhile, Rob Brown has become the 20th Canadian given permission to
smoke marijuana.

What about all the other Rob Browns? 
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