More MS news articles for August 2000

Medicinal marijuana regulations denounced

http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/pages/000803/4523973.html

Thursday 3 August 2000
ALLISON HANES
The Gazette

Reclined in his wheelchair, away from the TV cameras, Claude Messier inhaled a few breaths from a marijuana joint held out to him by an aide to relax his disease-ravaged body.

"It keeps me from getting muscle cramps," Messier, a muscular dystrophy patient, said yesterday as a press conference continued nearby.

Messier, 33, is one of only about 20 Canadians who has an exemption from Health Canada to smoke pot for medical purposes. He says it is the only substance that offers him any pain relief.

But yesterday he joined a number of national organizations to denounce the inconsistencies of federal laws regulating the use of medical marijuana and offer recommendations to Health Minister Allan Rock for coming clinical trials.

The groups said their demands are now all the more justified in light of this week's Ontario Court of Appeal decision that struck down federal marijuana-possession laws for sick people.

The court said the law violates a patient's rights because it forces a sick person to choose between his health and imprisonment. The court gave the government one year to redraft the law.

The judgment affects Ontario only.

People who have experience growing and using cannabis want the government to involve and consult them during the clinical trials, said Marc-Boris St. Maurice, leader of the Marijuana Party of Canada. He spoke on behalf of groups like the Compassion Club of Montreal and the Canadian Cannabis Coalition.

"We have hands-on experience with marijuana use in a medical context. It's very important for us to be involved in this process," he said.

St. Maurice plans to challenge Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day in a by-election expected to be held in British Columbia this fall.

Yesterday, St. Maurice unveiled recommendations addressed to Rock and signed by 20 compassion clubs from across the country. They will also form the basis of his political platform.

The groups want sick people to be able to smoke pot without special permission. And the groups want patients to have more options to obtain a safe supply.

More Potent Marijuana

Under the current exemption law, people with such illnesses as AIDS or cancer can possess and cultivate marijuana but can't buy it or have someone else get it for them.

The groups want more potent marijuana - containing more tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active chemical ingredient - to be used in the trials. They say the more potent the marijuana, the greater the benefit and the less often it needs to be taken, reducing harm to the lungs from smoking.

They also want the drug tested on healthy people to gauge its powers in stress relief.

The pot advocates want people with experience cultivating organic marijuana to supply it for the trials, regardless of whether the growers have a criminal record.

"We do not want to see the marijuana supply controlled by a corporate pharmaceutical monopoly that would jeopardize the integrity of the supply," St. Maurice said.

Alluding to the Ontario court decision, St. Maurice said: "The timeliness is a sign from up above that we must be doing something right." He spoke while seated beneath a handmade sign reading "363 days and counting" referring to the time remaining for the government to act.

But in the meantime, life is still difficult for the members of the Compassion Club of Montreal, co-founder Caroline Doyer said.

"It's still as it was before in Quebec - there's zero tolerance," she said.

The Club Distributes a Safe Supply of Pot for Medicinal Purposes and Provides Guidance to More Than 50

patients in the Montreal area, some of whom have exemptions.

But Montreal police busted the club last winter, seized its supply and arrested its volunteers. The club was shut for months.

Club officials say many of its patients are often harassed.

"When you're a 75-year-old that has cancer for the third time and you keep getting letters from the police saying you can't come get your medication, that's hassling," Doyer said.