HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Just Say Yes
Pubdate: Thu, 11 May 2000
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2000 Southam Inc.
Contact:  300 - 1450 Don Mills Road, Don Mills, Ontario M3B 3R5
Fax: (416) 442-2209


Not all marijuana users want to get high. Some use the drug for medical 
purposes. In fact, recent research demonstrates that marijuana is an 
effective treatment for AIDS wasting syndrome, intra-ocular pressure caused 
by glaucoma, chemotherapy-related nausea, as well as muscle spasticity 
arising from spinal cord injuries, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis. These 
discoveries are changing the way we think about marijuana. According to a 
National Post poll published yesterday, 65% of Canadians would like to see 
possession of small amounts of marijuana decriminalized. And 92% believe 
pot should be legal for medical purposes.

But for about three dozen Canadians, marijuana possession is already legal. 
Thanks to James Wakeford, an AIDS sufferer who spent two years fighting for 
the right to use marijuana to help treat the side effect of his AIDS 
medications, procedures now exist under Section 56 of the Controlled Drugs 
and Substances Act allowing Canadians to obtain exemptions to the nation's 
marijuana laws.

Yet, in many ways, this right is illusory. Although a Section 56 exemptee 
has the right to grow marijuana for his own use, the law puts him in a 
difficult position -- because no legal source for marijuana plants exists 
anywhere in Canada. Whoever sells him pot -- in whatever form -- is 
breaking the law. And then there is the issue of caregiver liability, which 
is significant because many Section 56 exemptees lack the expertise and 
strength to raise a marijuana crop without assistance.

The problems do not end there. Section 56 exemptions are issued by the 
Health Department; but Canada's police do not work for the Health 
Department, and they are generally unfamiliar with its edicts. Last month, 
for instance, in Kitchener, Ont., a woman who had been issued a Section 56 
exemption because of a degenerative nerve disorder had her marijuana seized 
by local police. When the woman showed the police her exemption, they took 
that too. They gave back the pot only after a judge ordered them to do so. 
Prior to that, they balked on the grounds that returning the marijuana 
would constitute "trafficking."

All this is outrageous. Section 56 exemptees are sick people. And if the 
government is going to give them the right to use marijuana as medicine -- 
a policy that 92% of Canadians support -- steps should be taken to ensure 
that they are not ensnared in Kafkaesque ordeals.
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