HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Pot Eases Man's Pain, But Not Legal Troubles
Pubdate: Tue, 12 Mar 2002
Source: Penticton Herald (Canada)
Copyright: 2002 The Okanagan Valley Group of Newspapers
Author: Errol Dammert
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)


Errol Dammert just wants to drink his tea. However, given his tea contains 
marijuana, Dammert has had quite a struggle to do what he believes is his 
constitutional right.

The 59-year-old Osoyoos man suffered a severely fractured spine in a 
motorcycle accident in 1984 and still suffers from chronic back, shoulder 
and leg pain.

"When I smoke marijuana, it doesn't really take the pain away, but it takes 
my mind away from the pain," he said.

He's now mired in a two-year battle with the justice system as he faces 
sentencing on two charges of marijuana production.

"They classify me as being a criminal for growing my own marijuana and 
smoking it," he said.

"I don't consider myself a criminal. I'm just trying to live a normal life. 
I'm not involved in criminal activity."

Dammert could face up to 23 months under house arrest. However, he's hoping 
given his condition and the evidence he's gathered, he'll receive an 
absolute discharge.

"He wasn't growing for profit," said Dammert's lawyer Ian McAndrews, noting 
the first charge stems from some plants Dammert grew at his Osoyoos 
residence, while he was nabbed with a tray of clones or young marijuana 
plants in the second incident.

He was convicted on both counts and will appear for sentencing April 12.

"He wasn't able to mount a medical marijuana legal defence because of the 
costs," said McAndrews. "From the legal perspective, the federal 
prosecution doesn't make it very easy for someone to put forward a medical 

This will be Dammert's fifth trip back to court for sentencing. He is also 
seeking a medical marijuana exemption from Health Canada. However, that 
process has proven to be just as frustrating as the court proceedings.

Dammert must follow complicated guidelines to obtain an exemption.

"I'm just so fed up with all the bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo," he said, noting 
he even travelled to Health Canada offices in Ontario last summer, but no 
one would speak to him.

The latest hoop Dammert has had to contend with was getting an assessment 
from a pain specialist.

Dr. T.J.N. Salhus noted that while the Canadian Medical Association doesn't 
have enough medical data to approve marijuana for pain management, he has 
given Dammert credit for finding his own pain remedy.

"In chronic-pain management, the best results are achieved when people are 
independent and are able to manage the pain themselves," wrote Dr. Salhus 
in his assessment. "It would appear to me, on assessment, that Mr. Dammert 
has managed to achieve this."

Aside from marijuana, Dammert's only alternative for long-term pain relief 
would be through opiates like morphine or Demerol.

"That's absolutely ridiculous," said Dammert. "I can't function on morphine 
or Demerol. It zones you right out."

Dammert would like to see the medical establishment, and especially Health 
Canada, be a little more responsive to the medical benefits of marijuana.

"They're making it so hard and so difficult for people to acquire 
(marijuana for medical purposes)," he said. "Why I'm going through this and 
why a few thousand other people in Canada are going through this is because 
I definitely feel the benefits of smoking pot and drinking tea. I find it 
very beneficial to my health."
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