HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Ill Protesters Fight Rules Over Marijuana Rules
Pubdate: Fri, 20 Sep 2002
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2002 The Vancouver Sun
Author: James McCarten, Canadian Press


Ottawa's Obstacles, Regulations For The Medicinal Use Of Pot Challenged In 

TORONTO -- A motley band of seriously ill people crowded into court 
Thursday to do battle with Ottawa over a scheme to permit the use of 
medical marijuana they say violates their constitutional rights.

The group, with conditions ranging from AIDS and hepatitis C to epilepsy 
and multiple sclerosis, wants to strike down federal rules governing 
medicinal pot, as well as the law that makes possession a criminal offence.

"This is about the right to make fundamental personal decisions," Toronto 
lawyer and longtime cannabis crusader Alan Young told Superior Court 
Justice Sidney Lederman. "The right to make personal decisions has been 
called fundamentally deserving of the highest protection."

Canada's Medical Marijuana Access Regulations, or MMARs, were supposed to 
honour previous court decisions by allowing those with serious illnesses to 
choose marijuana as a means to treat their symptoms. Instead, they're laden 
with obstacles and red tape that prevents more deserving people from 
exemption than it permits, Young said.

The regulations demand medical declarations that few doctors are willing to 
provide given the legal consequences, he argued. And they make it 
impossible for a doctor to recommend a dosage, since the drug remains 
unregulated in Canada.

Even those who do win a legal exemption -- more than 300 people in Canada 
are currently permitted by Ottawa to smoke pot for medical reasons -- are 
forced to break the law, resorting to black-market weed because the 
government is dragging its heels on efforts to cultivate a pure supply for 
clinical trial.

"They're exposed to the criminal sub-culture; they're exposed to rip-offs," 
Young said of his clients. "They're exposed to an unknown substance called 
marijuana, which can contain contaminants and adulterants."

There are seven marijuana consumers included in Young's group of 
applicants, along with a caregiver, the Toronto Compassion Centre. Three 
other applicants are also participating in the hearings.

If they can't get the regulations thrown out, the group is willing to 
settle for access to the federal government's stash: pot grown in a 
Manitoba mineshaft under a $5.7-million contract for clinical trials.

Federal Health Minister Anne McLellan has so far refused to allow the 
marijuana to be distributed because she says it simply isn't pure enough.

The whiff of weed was unmistakable during a mid-morning break in the 
proceedings, as several of the applicants took advantage of the 15-minute 
recess to light up a joint on the courthouse steps.

"It's very difficult for us to get permits, since doctors won't sign the 
necessary forms," said Marco Renda, a 42-year-old Ontario man who uses pot 
to combat the symptoms of hepatitis C. "The government should honour what 
the court has decided and make it easier for medical patients to receive 
medical marijuana."

Renda said he doesn't worry about the quality of his marijuana because he 
grows his own.

Those who are forced to buy from a dealer aren't so lucky, applicant Alison 
Murden complained. "It's nothing but sticks and stems and seeds one day, 
and it's a whole bag of bud the next," said Murden, who suffers from a host 
of medical ailments, including multiple sclerosis.

"This is absolutely outrageous, what they're doing to these Canadian 
people. These are sick and dying people."

For those suffering from serious illnesses, marijuana is invaluable as an 
anti-inflammatory and a mild painkiller, as well as battling nausea and 
stimulating appetite, said Young. "AIDS patients and cancer patients who 
basically can't eat because of their medication can smoke a joint, and then 
they are able to eat," he said.

"I think marijuana is primarily responsible for keeping most AIDS patients 
from wasting, which is the only reason they die these days, because the 
anti-viral medications keep them alive and kicking."

Young, who noted that former health minister Allan Rock was poised to 
release Ottawa's marijuana to those exempted from the law, said he thinks 
Ottawa is under pressure from U.S. authorities not to proceed with its plan.
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