HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html New Rules Cause Reefer Madness
Pubdate: Thu, 28 Feb 2002
Source: Edmonton Sun (CN AB)
Copyright: 2002, Canoe Limited Partnership.
Author: Mindelle Jacobs
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)


When Health Canada unveiled new regulations governing the use of marijuana 
for medical purposes, the change was supposed to mean easier access to the 

"This compassionate measure will improve the quality of life of sick 
Canadians," then health minister Allan Rock declared last July, shortly 
before the new rules came into effect.

While the new regulatory regime appears to be helping some Canadians - more 
than 100 people have been authorized to possess cannabis for therapeutic 
reasons - others have fallen through the cracks.

Until April 27, Dale and Alice Strohmaier have Ottawa's permission under 
the old medicinal pot rules to smoke marijuana to ease the painful 
side-effects of hepatitis C.

If they want to continue using pot after that, they have to meet the new 
requirements. It's not that they haven't tried and it's not that they don't 
qualify. They simply can't find two medical specialists who'll approve 
their application.

Dale, 50, and Alice, 42, have been trying for weeks to find specialists 
willing to help out. So far, no luck.

"No one will see us," says Dale. "We're appealing for a compassionate 
doctor that might read our story."

Doctors, however, are running scared. The Canadian Medical Association 
denounced the medical marijuana regulations last year.

In an open letter to Rock in November, CMA president Henry Haddad expressed 
concern that Ottawa expects doctors to act as a "gatekeeper" to an unproven 

Under the new rules doctors must recommend a specific dosage. But as the 
CMA and its legal body has pointed out, not enough is known about marijuana 
for doctors to feel comfortable about making such decisions.

As a result, the Canadian Medical Protective Association, which looks out 
for doctors' legal interests, has advised physicians that if they do help 
patients apply for medical pot, they leave certain parts of the form blank 
- - such as the prescribed dosage. The Alberta Medical Association also 
opposes the new rules.

The upshot is that Dale and Alice, who have been growing their own plants 
and smoking pot with Ottawa's blessing since October 2000, will soon either 
have to toss out their plants or smoke illegally.

Under the old regulations, they only needed the approval of their family 
doctor. Now they need the backing of two specialists.

Are there two doctors willing to help them? Dale and Alice, who met through 
a hepatitis C support group in 1999 and married the following year, don't 
want to return to their pre-pot days.

Both contracted hepatitis C through blood transfusions in the 1980s. Dale 
had to quit his job as a forklift driver in 1999 because of the fatigue 
brought on by the disease. Alice, who once worked as a family counsellor, 
also had to leave her job because of exhaustion. The couple now survive on 
Dale's disability income.

They find pot gives them more energy, smothers the pain and nausea and 
boosts their appetites.

"If I didn't have the pot, I wouldn't leave the apartment most days," says 
Alice. "I probably wouldn't leave bed most days. The nausea and fatigue 
would just be too much."

Ironically, she adds, quitting pot would mean taking much stronger and 
potentially addictive drugs to mask the pain. "Then you're just a zombie 
all the time."

This entire mess could have been avoided if Ottawa had simply legalized 
marijuana for adult use while continuing with clinical trials. Pot is, 
after all, one of the most benign drugs on the planet.

Talk about reefer madness.
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