Campaign Has Led To Altered Laws
Grant Krieger's longtime crusade to supply medicinal marijuana for himself and others who suffer from debilitating illnesses may be over.
He says he's tired of fighting.
But the Calgary man's legacy from 13 bumpy years of constitutional sparring has paved a path of change, a Manitoba judge said this week in suspending his sentence for possession for the purpose of trafficking.
Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench Justice Shawn Greenberg outlined in her written decision a chronology of changes in the law that have resulted since Krieger's fight began to use marijuana to alleviate pain caused by multiple sclerosis.
The changes include the federal government granting exemptions to possess and use the illicit drug -- and eventually permitting patients to grow it for personal use.
She emphasized that Krieger, who had no success with conventional pharmaceuticals and once attempted suicide before trying marijuana, never sold the drug for the money.
He did it, she said, to help himself and other seriously, or terminally, ill people. He educated them about the medical use of marijuana through his now-defunct compassion club, the Grant Krieger Cannabis Research Foundation.
"Indeed, he had no real victims," Greenberg wrote in a lengthy decision. "It is of note that those changes in the law were not the result of political lobbying, but of court challenges brought by people like Mr. Krieger."
"The fact that Mr. Krieger's acts of civil disobedience have effectively been vindicated make it all the more difficult to determine an appropriate sentence.
"It is difficult to chastise Mr. Krieger for not using legal methods to effect change when it has been constitutional challenges in the context of criminal prosecutions that have been the stimulant for the changes in the law that he had been advocating."
Krieger, 55, was charged on Jan. 7, 2004, when he was stopped by police as he was driving from his Calgary home to deliver marijuana to clients in Manitoba.
Police seized 454 grams of marijuana and $4,000 in cash and charged him criminally. He was convicted by a jury in Winnipeg but avoided jail time.
Greenberg placed him on probation for nine months, to mirror probation remaining from similar Calgary charges.
Calgary defence lawyer John Hooker said the judgment "is a vindication that Krieger has done a very good thing here, not a bad thing."
"It's a great decision from a humanitarian point of view," said Hooker.
Krieger, who at one time was supplying marijuana to 400 people in Canada through his compassion club, nevertheless spent much of his time and energy fighting in the courts.
He took one Calgary conviction right to the Supreme Court of Canada and won a new trial, but now he says he has lost his will to fight.
He no longer supplies the drug to anyone else and cannot even take advantage of his judicial exemption to grow pot for his own use, because he fears eviction from his landlord.
"What she said is a pretty scathing decision on the government," said Krieger. "You can't get a doctor to sign a form for a medical marijuana exemption, because insurance companies say anyone who does will lose their coverage."
Krieger said he will not buy marijuana from a registered government supplier because of the "poor quality" of the product.
However, he added, the last time he bought from the black market, he spent $800 on a quarter pound of pot that was chock full of fertilizer.
So, now the man who helped open many doors for medicinal marijuana users in Canada rarely leaves his rented home, except to pick up his disability pension cheque, buy groceries and walk his dog.
"I don't even like walking out of my house, because I'm afraid I'll get harassed by cops," said Krieger. "I can't handle harassment anymore. I'm at my wit's end. I've become a hermit and my family is mad at me for that."
The judge said Krieger always made sure the people to whom he sold marijuana were suffering from a major illness.
"While he might be considered reckless by effectively 'playing doctor,' there is no evidence that he caused anyone any harm," she wrote.
December 23, 2009
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