All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for February 2003

Ailing grass users seek more input{78A03703-274E-4EAF-BACA-247FA307BEF0}

Feb, 2003
By Keith Bonnell
The Daily News

As advocates of medicinal marijuana gathered for a protest in Ottawa, a local activist could only send her support in spirit.

Debbie Stultz-Giffin was too sick to attend Monday’s protest in person.

The 45-year-old suffers from multiple sclerosis, which often leaves her exhausted. She has a Health Canada medical exemption to take marijuana as medicine.

But Stultz-Giffin did have enough energy to vent her anger at a federal system she said has forced her to break the law just to get medicine to which she’s legally entitled.

“Marijuana gives me a quality of life,” Stultz-Giffin said from her home in Bridgetown, Annapolis Co. “It controls my pain; it will stop spasms dead in their tracks. It’s just a wonderful medication for me.”

Critics say Ottawa has made a mess of its medicinal marijuana program. They claim it’s too hard to get a medical marijuana exemption, and it’s harder still to get legal marijuana.

The protesters want to be represented on a federal advisory committee that’s trying to rewrite the rules for medicinal marijuana.

There are two people with medical exemptions on the committee, but critics say they were randomly appointed by Health Canada, and don’t have a grasp on all the issues.

Four years ago, Stultz-Giffin’s husband, Cliff, was arrested for growing marijuana in their home. He was convicted and given a $1,500 fine.

The couple said the pot was medication for Debbie, who smokes four grams a day to cope with her MS.

That criminal conviction means he’s unable to grow medicinal pot for his wife, under the federal guidelines.

“I have a criminal record,” the 58-year-old artist said. “I think it’s ludicrous, that because I was convicted of growing this stuff, I’m not allowed to grow it for my ill wife.

“We’re not trying to sell this stuff on the side.”

Buying pot illegally has proven unreliable and costly, running the family nearly $200 a week, Stultz-Giffin said, adding that she is now relying on “truly compassionate” people for her medication.

Protest organizer Philipe Lucas said the federal system needs a major overhaul.

“It wouldn’t be right if your doctor said to you, ‘You need penicillin, go home and make it,’” Lucas said. “For the same reason, this program has really become a farce.”

© Copyright 2003 The Daily News