WINNIPEG - A medical marijuana crusader with multiple sclerosis says he will likely die in prison now that a Winnipeg jury has found him guilty of selling pot to clients across Canada who suffer from chronic pain or terminal illnesses.
"I'm ashamed to be a Canadian," Grant Krieger, 53, said Wednesday after a jury found him guilty of trafficking.
The Calgary resident said the verdict shows how little the country cares for the sick and dying and represents a wasted opportunity to make a statement.
"They had a chance to change the law," he said.
"It's a victimless crime they've convicted me of. Now they're gonna kill me when they put me in jail."
Krieger admitted he broke the law but was seeking to be acquitted on sympathetic grounds.
Jurors took only about 30 minutes to reach their unanimous guilty verdict. Krieger is expected to be sentenced early in 2009 and remains free on bail.
"I know I didn't have a legal ground to stand on, but our society is not supposed to discriminate. They're penalizing the sick," said Krieger.
Krieger - who runs the Grant W. Krieger Cannabis Research Foundation of Canada - has been battling progressive MS since 1978 and says his only relief comes from smoking and ingesting cannabis.
He admits selling pot to dozens of people across Canada but insisted there is a major difference between him and a garden-variety drug dealer.
Krieger said his many customers suffer from chronic pain, disease and even terminal illness and have come to him looking to improve their quality of life.
Krieger testified in his own defence earlier this week about how his disease had driven him to the point of attempting at suicide before he started using marijuana.
"Without it, I wouldn't be standing here before you today," he told jurors. "I'd be in a wheelchair or dead right now."
The Crown's case against Krieger was simple - although he had permission to possess pot for his own medical reasons, he didn't have permission from the federal government to sell marijuana.
There is a program in place to distribute the drug to those who get special clearance from doctors, but Krieger said the whole system is flawed.
He said most doctors are afraid to make such a declaration. And Krieger criticized the federal government for the quality of their drugs, which are produced in Flin Flon in northern Manitoba.
"It's grown in a dirty mine shaft," Krieger told jurors. He said the drug is overly processed and diluted by the time it gets to those in needs, mitigating the relief it can provide.
Krieger said his pot is prime quality stuff, especially when extracted and reduced to "cannabis butter."
"I can't get a good night's sleep from anything else," Krieger told jurors.
He denies profiting from his crime, saying he's "in the red" and frequently gives away drugs to those on fixed incomes who desperately need it.
Krieger's trial began Monday with only one witness being called to testify - Krieger himself.
The Crown didn't call any evidence other than presenting a statement of agreed facts, which outlines the details surrounding Krieger's 2004 arrest near Headingley, outside Winnipeg.
Krieger is no stranger to the justice system and is appealing another drug conviction from Alberta that netted him a four-month jail sentence.
That hearing is set for next week. Krieger also had another conviction overturned by the Supreme Court.
His lawyer, John Hooker, admitted they had a difficult task in getting Krieger acquitted of a crime he readily admits to committing.
But he said Dr. Henry Morgentaler once faced a similar challenge when accused of murder for performing abortions.
The lawyer hopes the federal government will closely study Krieger's case and eventually change the laws so people like his client are permitted to distribute marijuana in addition to possessing and cultivating it.
Mike McIntyre , Winnipeg Free Press
Published: Wednesday, October 29, 2008
© Winnipeg Free Press 2008