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Pubdate: Sun, 08 Apr 2001
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2001 The Province
Author: Jason Proctor


Sad to say, but a lot of people on Jackie's block have cancer.  The 63-year-old Surrey woman hates the thought of so many friends suffering, but she can't help them all.  So she only gave marijuana to her next-door neighbour.

A straight-as-an-arrow Christian, Jackie discovered pot after a mastectomy.  She smokes a joint about twice a week, to kill chronic pain.

Like thousands of British Columbians, she was glad to see Ottawa introduce regulations Friday governing legal use of medicinal marijuana.  But regulations are regulations.  And for a woman living in agony, the thought of jumping through any hoops for simple comfort is unbearable.

"It's a beginning, but it's nothing really.  And to get it through the government -- people like me aren't going to do that.  We'll just go on doing what we're doing," says Jackie, who asked that her last name not be published.  "I would like to see the government just leave it alone.  Legalize it, and then we could grow it in our backyards and there wouldn't be any of this crime."

Medicinal marijuana advocates saw a blessing and a curse in the regulations.  The rules would create three categories of patients.

First priority -- with easiest access to marijuana -- would be patients expected to die within a year.  The next group would be chronic-illness sufferers required to present a statement from a medical specialist saying conventional treatments had been tried and found inappropriate for severe pain, nausea, anorexia, seizures, spasms or weakness from specified diseases including cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and arthritis.

Patients with medical conditions that fit in neither of the first two categories would comprise the third group and would have to obtain statements from two medical specialists.

Legalization of marijuana as medicine has long been the cause of the so-called compassion clubs which have sprung up across Canada in recent years to provide seriously ill people with pot and information surrounding its use as a treatment.

But those same organizations were snubbed in the proposed regulations, which would not allow compassion clubs to supply medical marijuana.  The rules would allow patients to grow medical pot for personal use or to designate a grower.  Designated growers would be allowed a maximum of three patients each.

That news angered John Conroy, the lawyer for the B.C.  Compassion Club, which has 1,400 members.  Conroy was instrumental in winning an absolute discharge in B.C.  Supreme Court last summer for Bill Small, a former director of the club who pleaded guilty to cultivating the drug.

As part of his decision, Justice Randall Wong recognized the legitimacy of marijuana as a medical cure.

"It disappoints me to hear that they're cutting out the compassion clubs," said Conroy.  "They're the people who've been dealing with the patients.  They're the people who've been trying to get the stuff tested so they control the quality of the product.  It strikes me as a bit odd that they would exclude those with expertise."

The regulations come at a time when Lower Mainland police appear to be stepping up their relentless campaigns to bust grow operations.  The rules would provide strict requirements for people hoping to use or grow marijuana.  And RCMP spokesman Cpl.  Grant Learned said the war on drugs remains business as usual for law enforcement.

"Marijuana is one of the commodities that is used in national and international markets as a trading chip for other drugs and weapons," said Learned.  "And it is one of the commodities used by organized crime."

The rules make Canada the only country in the world with a government-regulated system for using marijuana as medicine.  Strangely, the strongest endorsement of the cause came from the Minnesota governor -- the always colourful Jesse Ventura.

"Who is government to tell someone, if they have AIDS or cancer, what they should be taking?" said Ventura in response to a student's question.

"What's the difference between that and giving morphine, from a doctor, or Percodan, or the favourite today -- what's the one they put half the women on? Prozac.  Now what's that all about?"

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