Marijuana-Use Advocate Says Health Canada Exemptions Not Enough to Really Help People in Need of Pain Control
A SERIOUS BACK AND NECK injury at work many years ago left him in chronic pain, and Harrietsfield's John Cook eventually found that marijuana provided the best relief.
The married, 44-year-old father of two now smokes from five to 10 grams of it daily and says he'd otherwise need Demerol, morphine or other strong pharmaceuticals that make him too drowsy to function. He very rarely gets high or light-headed anymore and drives after smoking. He said he does not get intoxicated and hasn't had an accident in 25 years, but he advises recreational users to never drive after smoking.
He's the director of the Halifax outlet of the Cannabis Buyers' Club of Canada, which has him provide marijuana and legal support to people who want it for medical purposes.
Mr. Cook has been charged with cultivation, possession and trafficking, but said he's never been convicted. He does not have permission from Health Canada to carry or smoke marijuana but said he has documents that show he needs it for personal medical use, which is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He dismisses Health Canada exemptions as a "control issue," since anyone who has one and still ends up in court has to demonstrate medical need.
He called the exemption a bare minimum that doesn't effectively help people in need and wrote his concerns to Nova Scotia's attorney general ( Justice Minister Ross Landry ) just two weeks ago.
Q: Do you provide marijuana to people who don't have Health Canada's permission to use it, and explain how you can do this legally?
A: Yes, the majority of the ( cannabis buyers' ) club members don't have exemptions; maybe 10 of them do. I don't know if we can do it legally. The police have commented if they have a complaint they will investigate. I assume they haven't had a complaint. I've had a lot of dealings through the court helping other people with their charges, so I've got to know the Crown ( attorneys ) and a lot of the officers. I don't know if that has any bearing on it or not. I guess as long as I don't step outside what we consider the boundaries. You have to show medical proof.
Q: Police in this province have recently conducted many search-and-destroy operations targeting outdoor grow-ops. They didn't gather evidence to try and charge anyone. It was just to destroy plants. What percentage of plants do you think they got in Nova Scotia and what do you think of the operation?
A: I would say they probably got less than 10 per cent. I understand the philosophy behind it - to stop organized crime - but most of these people that are planting in the woods outside are not organized. Most ( organized criminals ) will set up shop in houses and they will convert the whole house to a grow-op. Again, it's a consensual thing. If two adults want to partake in that, I can't see the illegality in that.
Q: Do you think that people abuse or overuse marijuana and, if so, how?
A: I'm sure there's people that abuse it, just like anything else. If it affects your everyday living - what we would consider a normal life ( like ) being a productive citizen, going to school, etc. - if it starts to interfere with those things, then there's an abuse problem. Again, it's a health issue, though; it's not a criminal issue. It should be dealt with through the health field.
Q: Who do you think should be allowed to smoke marijuana and who should be prohibited?
A: For medical reasons, I'd say there's no limit. For recreational/social use, ( age ) 16 would be a nice pipe dream, but they're always going to get it. For legal reasons, I guess we'd start at 16. It's a consensual act. You're not harming anyone.
Q: If you were to guess, in Nova Scotia, among the adult population, how many people would you say are occasional users of marijuana?
A: I would say it would have to be close to 50 per cent, at least. It's probably higher. People usually either drink or they consume some sort of intoxicant otherwise. It runs all stripes, too. It's professionals, it's laymen, it's teachers, it's everybody. Even judges sit up there and pretend you're a bad guy and point their finger and then they go home and do the same thing. It's crazy.
By DAN ARSENAULT
September 28, 2009
The Chronicle Herald