* FLASH-BACK! *
Marijuana Medicine Tests Pot’s Potential
Canada’s approval of a cannabis-based medicine has people wondering
what would be possible if a stigma could be removed.
August 1st, 2005
Story St. Pertersburg Times, Florida
By SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN, Times Senior Correspondent
BURLINGTON, Ontario – Since she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 13 years ago, Alison Myrden has suffered from pain so intense it feels like “lightning going off in my face.”
To reduce her agony, Myrden, 41, has long taken dozens of prescription pills a day, including the powerful Dilaudin. Now, though, she has a new weapon in her arsenal: Sativex, billed as the world’s first cannabis-based drug.
“I think it has good potential,” says Myrden, squirting Sativex into her mouth from a small sprayer. “It’s really fabulous that the government has taken marijuana seriously and is making a medicine of it.”
This spring, Canada became the first country to approve Sativex, a prescription drug for MS that contains tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and other active ingredients of the Cannabis sativa plant. The drug went on sale throughout Canada in mid June, just a week after the medical marijuana movement in the United States was dealt a major setback by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Sativex is so new and expensive that few Canadians are using it so far. But given the timing of its debut, it has highlighted the divergent views on marijuana’s therapeutic benefits.
Sativex “is an important step, but why should this whole field be centered in Canada and England instead of the United States? It’s because of the repression of science in the United States,” says Rick Doblin, whose Sarasota-based Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies funds research of marijuana’s medical effects.
But the U.S. government’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, which deems marijuana a dangerous drug, says many of those touting its therapeutic use want to legalize its recreational use as well.
“Of course we would look at any medicine proven safe or efficacious,” says spokesman Tom Riley. “But the medical marijuana issue has been kind of larded with hype for a number of years by a lot of people with agendas in this area.”
Sativex was developed by GW Pharmaceuticals, a small British company that is trying to distance itself from the medical marijuana debate as it seeks U.S. and European approval of a potentially lucrative product.
“There is a clear distinction to be drawn between what you would call medical marijuana and Sativex, which is the name of a medicine,” says Mark Rogerson, a GW spokesman. “Medical marijuana is smoking a joint or baking a cake. This is a prescription medicine for MS.”
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease of the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord and optic nerves) that affects people in unpredictable ways. Some patients suffer from spasticity, causing the muscles to lock up; others, like Myrden, shake or have excruciating pain.
In Britain, GW has focused on Sativex as a treatment for spasticity. So far the British government has refused to approve it without more evidence it works for that purpose.
In Canada, however, Sativex has been approved for use in treating neuropathic pain, another common symptom.
Myrden, a disabled former corrections officer and one of 50,000 Canadians with MS, says Sativex helps relieve pain but is not as cheap or effective as the plant.
Unlike the other drugs she takes, Sativex is not covered by Ontario’s health care program. A small bottle, with enough sprays to last Myrden just 31/2 days, costs $125.
For Sativex to gain wider use, “it has to be cost effective,” says Myrden, who lives on government disability and help from her mother and boyfriend. “It’s about $1,000 a month – where am I going to get money for my next prescription?”
By comparison, it costs Myrden about $400 a month to buy marijuana from compassion clubs, the quasilegal establishments that sell it for medicinal purposes. She is also among a few hundred Canadians licensed by the government to grow marijuana and smoke it wherever tobacco cigarettes are allowed.
Despite its high price, Sativex is less effective than regular marijuana, Myrden has found. She never used marijuana before developing MS, she says, but now smokes it several times a day and eats it in oatmeal cookies.
With the right strain of marijuana, “I can get rid of the pain in minutes for two hours. I would rely on marijuana hands down – it’s the only thing that gives me quality of life.”
The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada considers Sativex “just another” treatment for MS-related symptoms.
That it comes in spray form and is obtainable only by prescription “is a little more reassuring because it’s less apt to be abused,” says Dr. William McIlroy, the society’s medical adviser. “The majority of doctors in Canada don’t want to be known as the primary source of smoked marijuana.”
In the United States, where MS afflicts 400,000, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society says anecdotal evidence suggests marijuana can help reduce MS-related pain. But it remains difficult to measure relief objectively: Participants in one study realized they were getting a cannabinoid-based treatment instead of a placebo when they developed the dry mouth and lightheadedness familiar to marijuana users.
“So far the studies that have purported to show the benefits of marijuana have not been well-blinded, and so people knew what they were receiving,” says John Richert, the society’s vice president for research. “That makes it impossible to distinguish whether one is seeing a true effect of the treatment or whether it is a placebo effect.”
As for Sativex, “there is still no good scientific study that proves its efficacy,” Richert says.
GW Pharmaceuticals has yet to formally seek approval for Sativex in the United States, though it has “started the process” of talking to the Food and Drug Administration, says Rogerson, the GW spokesman. “No disrespect to the FDA, but we would expect it be a longer process in the States.”
Advocates of medical marijuana claim the U.S. government has made it difficult to do scientific research into the plant’s therapeutic effects. Researchers must get federal approval for their studies and must use marijuana from a government farm in Mississippi.
“This is the only drug in America for which the only source for research purposes is the U.S. government, and they have a reputation for producing not very good quality stuff,” says Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates more liberal drug policies.
Availability of the Mississippi marijuana used to be limited to those studying the plant’s effects on behavior and reasoning. But the government began giving it to other researchers after a federal advisory panel found enough evidence of marijuana’s medical benefits to warrant additional study.
“Except for the harm associated with smoking, the adverse effects of marijuana are within the range of effects tolerated for other medicines,” said a report by the Institute of Medicine.
Thousands of people with MS, cancer, AIDS and other diseases routinely use marijuana in California and the 10 other states with medical marijuana laws. (Florida is not among them.) In June, however, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government still can ban marijuana possession in states that have eliminated penalties for its therapeutic use.
That’s unfortunate, says Myrden, who applauds the Canadian government for approving Sativex and allowing sick people to use marijuana in other forms as well.
“I’m really excited this is available,” she says of Sativex, “but you have to realize the natural form is just as good if not better.”
Susan Taylor Martin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
© Copyright 2003 St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved
The Legalization Issue: From medpot to the next frontier – psychedelics as medicine
As the country blows the doors open to legal cannabis, medpot pioneer Alison Myrden prepares to go to court to fight for a legal exemption to consume magic mushrooms for her MS
OCTOBER 3, 2018
Alison Myrden eats a lot of magic mushroom: most days, she’ll have around 50 grams. For even the experienced drug user this would be a stratospheric, interplanetary volume of psilocybin to ingest.
But for Myrden mushrooms are more medicinal than mystical. She experiences no psychedelic effects from them. They are the best form of medication she has to get relief from the pain associated with multiple sclerosis and trigeminal neuralgia, a nerve disorder that causes a searing, electric pain in a person’s face. It’s been called the “suicide disease” because the pain is so excruciating and acute that it has been known to drive people to kill themselves.
Myrden is preparing to go to court to fight for a legal exemption to consume medicinal mushrooms. She and her legal team – made up of prominent cannabis lawyers Paul Lewin and Jack Lloyd – are currently preparing an application and court challenge to get an official exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA).
As the country prepares to blow the doors open on legalized cannabis, Myrden and her lawyers are looking to what they see as the next frontier: psilocybin. And they’re willing to take it all the way to the Supreme Court.
An ex-corrections officer, Myrden, 54, has a long history of self-medicating, and a pretty good track record of convincing the Supreme Court of Canada to let her do it. In the mid-1990s, she was one of the first cannabis users to push the government, through legal challenges that also rose to the Supreme Court, to legalize medical cannabis.
That would prove to be a tectonic shift for cannabis in Canada.
Myrden’s discovery of the medicinal properties of psilocybin was almost entirely by accident.
“I was having a really bad day, and I was at a friend’s place,” Myrden says. That friend handed her a mushroom – a Blue Cambodian.
“It weighed in at about five grams, and I ate pretty much the whole thing,” Myrden says. “I was so frustrated, and I was trying to get relief. And bang, within 10 minutes, my face changed, and all of a sudden I had no pain. I was a brand-new person.”
That experience became foundational in how Myrden treats her own illnesses, and she wants it to be legally available for everyone “like we did [with] cannabis,” she says.
Myrden’s use of psilocybin lies somewhere between sanctioned health care and self-medication.
She has a prescription for 50 grams of psilocybin daily – NOW has viewed a copy of the prescription, which is signed by Myrden’s doctor – just in case the cops show up. The prescription does not make them legal, but would potentially earn her some leniency.
It’s not as if Myrden can buy mushrooms in a pharmacy. She still has to source them from the street, which can be precarious. When I catch up with her in September, she tells me she isn’t feeling great since she can’t get a hold of any mushrooms. One time, her mushroom source disappeared for eight months.
However beneficial mushrooms are to Myrden and however safely she uses them, the initial application is still a long shot.
Lewin figures that the government is too fresh off legalizing weed to consider the idea of medical psilocybin. “My gut feeling, and this is just speculation,” says Lewin, “is that they’ve just done a little bit too much already.” In other words, the government is cracking the door open on drug use ever so slightly with legalized cannabis, but it’s not about to ram a mushroom-shaped truck through it.
Rebecca Purdy, a spokesperson for Health Canada, says that while the department has received similar applications for exemptions in the past, “to date, the department has not granted any exemptions.”
They aren’t ruling out the idea completely, though.
“Health Canada reviews all applications submitted for an exemption under subsection 56(1) of the CDSA on a case-by-case basis, on its own merits,” the department notes in a statement, taking “the public health and public safety objectives of the CDSA into account.”
Lewin says that “the plan isn’t to be refused,” but it sort of is, as a denial of Myrden’s application would open the door for a federal court appeal, and losing there would give them what it seems like they’re really gearing up for: a chance to fight out the merits of medical psilocybin in front of the Supreme Court in a kind of sequel to the medical cannabis court challenge of the 1990s.
There, says Lewin, the case would not be about Myrden so much as it would be about the merits of using mushrooms for medical purposes. There, they might actually have a shot, as the concept of psilocybin as medicine is gaining acceptance among medical professionals.
In an editorial published in a 2016 edition of the Journal Of Psychopharmacology, Dr. David Nutt wrote that “we have input from experienced psychiatric clinical trialists, leading pharmacologists and cancer-care specialists. They all essentially say the same thing: it’s time to take psychedelic treatments in psychiatry and oncology seriously, as we did in the 1950s and 1960s, which means we need to go back to the future.”
Nutt argues that “there was no evidence of psilocybin being harmful enough to be controlled when it was banned, and since then, it has continued to be used safely by millions of people worldwide with a very low incidence of problems.”
The concept that mind-altering substances can also have medical properties is not limited to cannabis and psilocybin. Psychoactive substances like MDMA have shown promise in treating conditions like anxiety and PTSD.
It seems that even Health Canada is open to the idea that psilocybin could be the next frontier in natural medicine. A spokesperson confirms to NOW that it has authorized at least one clinical trial using psilocybin in patients with treatment-resistant depression.
What comes next?
Lewin says his team is still working on lining up medical experts to testify on Myrden’s behalf.
At the centre of it, though, is Myrden, who has to get up every day and fight through almost unimaginable pain.
For most people, her fight is an abstraction, a debate about what is medicine and what is a drug, and the sometimes arbitrary lines we draw between those two things. For Myrden it’s her life and her ability to live it without pain.
Most days, she can’t walk – she’s on her third electric wheelchair, she says.
The impact that psilocybin has on Myrden is obvious: nearly an hour after we started talking, the life in her – the life that’s kept her fighting for the better part of 30 years – starts to show. Her warms as the psilocybin takes effect.
“I’ve got a lot of life in me, and I don’t want to be sitting in a wheelchair. I don’t want to be living in the pain I’m living in, so I’ve got to do something.”
Go To – Now Magazine
No pain is the biggest gain of all for psilocybin user Alison Myrden
After receiving Canada’s first medical authorization for psilocybin in 2017, the drug-reform trailblazer is looking to follow cannabis’s lead
Alison Myrden is a drug-reform trailblazer, to be sure, but legal triumphs are far from her top priority. More than anything else, her 30-year battle to legally consume cannabis and psilocybin has been about controlling pain — her own, and that of others.
In 1994, the retired corrections officer became one of Canada’s first legal medical cannabis patients. Then, on April 7, 2017, Myrden made history again when she received the nation’s first medical authorization to consume psilocybin.
“For most of my life, 24 hours a day, I’ve been battling the most excruciating pain known to medicine,” Myrden says, referring to the bilateral trigeminal neuralgia in her face and head that’s associated with her chronic progressive multiple sclerosis. “That’s why I need something to stop this violent pain. I now take up to 50 milligrams of psilocybin a day” — in brownie form, along with more than 100 grams of cannabis in concentrates and joints — “and for the first time in 30 years I have no pain.”
While academic studies and media coverage have focused mainly on using psilocybin to treat depression, addiction and anxiety, “there’s much less awareness of the fact that people like me, and especially migraine sufferers, use it for pain relief,” Myrden, 53, continues.
Psilocybin effectively treats pain because it contains the psychoactive compound tryptamine, which evokes serotonin and dopamine release in the brain. This reduces inflammation and constricts blood vessels and, in turn, alleviates pain.
Another benefit, Myrden says, is that the psilocybin contained in so-called “magic mushrooms” is actually safer than all other recreational drugs. Indeed, of the 12,000-plus people who reported taking psilocybin in the 2017 Global Drug Survey, just 0.2 percent said they needed emergency medical treatment. This rate was at least five times lower than that for MDMA, LSD and cocaine.
This key point is just one aspect of the public awareness campaign Myrden is spearheading. “At this point, it’s all about educating the public,” she says. “The Canadian Medical Association also has to get up to speed with these kinds of things, because people are using them to feel better. That’s a powerful motivator. There are few formal studies on the pain-relieving effects of psilocybin, but there is a wealth of anecdotal evidence. The people who are safely consuming psilocybin to feel better are part of a living trial.”
Next up for Myrden: Obtaining Canada’s first-ever Section 56 exemption for psilocybin from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. This exemption, which is currently being sought by Toronto lawyer Paul Lewin and articling University of British Columbia student Farrell Miller, would basically allow Myrden to legally possess the drug. “This type of exemption is the same type that first allowed for the medical use of cannabis,” Miller explains. “Thus, (psilocybin) reform could follow a similar trajectory.”
Myrden, for her part, says she is “thrilled” with the progress the application is making. “I’m really pleased that it’s moving as quickly as it is, and that my doctor is so excited about the benefits.”
Ultimately, she adds, all Canadians have a right to be free from chronic pain. “Life, liberty and happiness are in our constitution, and if my life is at stake because I’m chronically ill, and I choose something like psilocybin to feel better, then that is my choice. Quite simply, in this country, we are entitled to consume anything licit or illicit in order to feel better.”
Adam Bisby is a Toronto-based freelance writer.
Alison in the News Search …
CPAC – Cable Public Affairs Channel, is Canada’s only privately-owned, commercial free, not for profit, bilingual licensed television service.
CBC News Canadian National TV … CTV News Canadian TV … CNN iReport …
GrannyCrowstormlist … CHCH News “Square Off” Video Interview … Toronto Sun May 7, 2016 Free the Weed! … Alison on MAP (Media Awareness Project)
*Alison has done 185 articles listed at MAP (Drug Awareness News) see below …
*Start with Alison Myrden 1999-00 to Present on MAP’s Drugnews search … example below
Marian Hutten nominated as Patient Ambassador at the IACM 2018 – 2019
IACM: Nomination of the IACM Ambassadors
To build a larger network that works together on the objectives mentioned in the articles of association , the IACM has nominated ambassadors from different countries around the world. There are both professional ambassadors and Patient Ambassadors, as well as Partner organizations .
The list of ambassadors is as follows:
Alex Mabou Tagne (Cameroon)
Daniela Parolaro (Italy)
Donald Abrams (USA)
Ethan Russo (USA)
Francesco Crestani (Italy)
Franjo Grotenhermen (Germany)
Gastone Zanette (Italy)
Gianpaolo Grassi (Italy)
Ilya Reznik (Israel)
Kirsten Müller-Vahl (Germany)
Manuel Guzman (Spain)
Mark Ware (Canada)
Marlon Germon (South Africa)
Marry Lynn Mathre (USA)
Natalie Krapivensky (Australia)
Raquel Peyraube (Uruguay)
Roger Pertwee (UK)
Rudolf Brenneisen (Switzerland)Steve Goldner (USA)
Alison Myrden (Canada)
Carola Pérez Gómez (Spain)
Hana Vágnerová (Czech Republic)
Marian Hutten (Netherlands)
Max Plenert (Germany)
Michael Krawitz (USA)
Sarah Martin (UK)
Sébastien Béguerie (France)
For more details on the ambassadorship program, you can contact partner and network coordinator Yuval Zolotov at the mail address: email@example.com
Accept my apology for the short delay in this email, due to the workload of members of the Network Committee.
I am pleased to announce that the IACM’s ambassadorship program has started to launch its activities, and that the Network Committee has decided to appoint you as a Patient Ambassador to the IACM.
You will find the appointment in the appendix.
Yuval (Tuby) Zolotov
Partnership and Network Coordinator
International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines (IACM)
Why Is Canada Giving All Its Weed Taxes to Cops?
Adult-use cannabis legalization will sweep the Great White North on October 17th, making Canada the second country — after Uruguay — to federally legalize the plant. Bill C-45, the landmark legislation which reached Royal Assent in June, will bring a projected windfall of C$690 million in sales tax revenue over the first five years, and hopes to cut into an already booming $6.2 billion black-market.
After campaigning on a tax and regulate platform, Prime Minister Trudeau announced Bill C-45’s success with a tweet: “It’s been too easy for our kids to get marijuana — and for criminals to reap the profits. Today, we change that.”
Though government officials are hesitant to say how much tax revenue to expect in the first five years of legalization, a 2018 Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) report estimates that Canada’s 10 provinces stand to capture up to 70% of the profits. With provinces controlling cannabis distribution across the country and levying their own sales tax on retail purchases, the report projects a provincial gain of $3 billion — from either earned profits or tax revenues — by the year 2020. But where that money goes and exactly how it will be spent is still up for debate.
The federal government will levy an excise tax of 10%, or about $1 per gram, on all cannabis sales. Last December, Premiers rejected a 50-50 split of the taxes collected, arguing the provinces would bear the brunt of regulation and enforcement costs. Ottawa agreed to to keep only a quarter of the excise tax revenue for the first two years of legalization — with the remaining 75% going to individual provinces.
Municipalities argue that cities and local law enforcements will shoulder most of the costs associated with legislation — from public education campaigns to zoning and by-law enforcement. Mayors across Canada have been pressuring their Premiers to fork over a large chunk of the tax revenue to local governments. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) — which represents over 2,000 local governments — initially proposed that local governments receive one-third of the excise tax.
“We think it’s a few million dollars worth of bylaw enforcement issues we’re going to have to deal with,” Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said in the Edmonton Journal of the additional costs he expects the city to incur, as well as “several million more in policing costs, in the $10- to $12-million range, all put together. We’re still asking the provinces for a share of this.”
As legalization looms, local mayors and councilors have been asking provincial governments to formalize their cannabis tax distribution plans.
“There hasn’t been any commitment to date that those revenues will be made available to the municipalities,” Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said in the Winnipeg Free Press. “I don’t want to see taxpayers and property owners having to subsidize pot. I don’t think that’s fair.”
Iveson, who is also chief of FCM’s Big City Mayor caucus, warned if the province did not step-up and share revenue, cities like Edmonton — with a population just under a million, and six pot shops set to open Oct. 17th — might have to raise property taxes to cover regulation costs.
“We have no indication whatsoever that the property taxpayers won’t be left on the hook for this, and that’s still unacceptable,” Mayor Don Iveson told TheEdmonton Journal. “We understand there’ll be some transitional costs, but I’m frustrated that it probably looks like I’m gonna have to ask taxpayers to chip in in our next budget.”
With no plan from Alberta’s provincial government in sight, a press request to the Edmonton Mayor’s office yielded a cheeky response:
“We have no deal from the Province yet — we have no commitments other than last week the Premier [Rachel Notley] says she heard the cities’ desire and she will work with us, so you are welcome to go ask the Province how they plan to do that :)”
Mike Brown, Press Secretary for Alberta’s Finance Minister, told MERRY JANE the province expects to operate at a loss of around $90 million for the first two years of legalization, as it will shell out money on building a regulatory framework before sales and distribution are a go.
“Alberta has committed to providing funding to municipalities when it comes to the costs associated with cannabis legalization,” Brown wrote in an email. “Those details have not been announced but will be in the near future.”
Only two out of Canada’s ten provinces and three territories have unveiled their plans to share the loot with local municipalities.
Ontario committed to giving $40 million to municipalities upfront from the first two-years of the cannabis excise tax kickback. The percentage was determined by number of households, adjusted so each municipality receives at least $10,000. If the province receives over $100 million from the feds, 25% of that excess will be diverted to municipalities.
In Quebec, municipalities will receive a total of $60 million over the next two years, even if excise revenues are lower than expected.
Whether federal, provincial, or municipal, the majority of the budget bump seems to be heading straight to law enforcement’s bottom line.
As the Liberal Party explains on its website, “To ensure that we keep marijuana out of the hands of children, and the profits out of the hands of criminals, we will legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana.” Subsequently, unlicensed sales and distribution remain high-priority for law enforcement, with some provinces setting up special forces to crackdown on black market activity. Nova Scotia, where the province will control distribution and retail, has introduced fines ranging from $150 dollars to $25,000 for people selling or buying unlicensed weed.
Cannabis activists such as Alison Myrden, a medical marijuana exemptee since 1994, feel left out of the cold when it comes to recreational legalization.
“The government is so concerned with social users [that] they’re pushing medical patients to the side,” Myrden said from her home in Burlington, Ontario. “We are just as important as those bigwigs who have million-dollar investments and buy-ins in their LPs and dispensaries.”
Prescription use marijuana has been legal in Canada since 2001. A government-run program provides cannabis for patients by mail, but no health insurance covers it. Myrden, who uses cannabis to treat multiple sclerosis, says she spent $600 on marijuana last month, and wants to see some of the tax revenue be put into a fund to help medical patients cover costs.
“They’re looking at making a heck of a lot of money from cannabis in this country,” said Myrden. “Why couldn’t they put a percentage towards all of us? Social, medical, and religious consumers.”
On the phone, Myrden, a former corrections officer, also advocated for a blanket exoneration of cannabis offenders, and that grower and sellers who’d lost property and plants to government forfeiture be compensated.
Tyler James, director of advocacy group Sensible Ontario, wants to see some of the excise tax funds go towards community sensitive training for police officers.
Referencing the spike in cannabis charges for black and Latinx youth after Colorado legalized, James told MERRY JANE, “Police need more appropriate community outreach training to avoid targeting minority and low-income communities.”
Over the next five years, Trudeau’s government earmarked just over $274 million for law enforcement and border patrol and over $100 million towards cannabis public education, awareness, and surveillance — including $62.5 million to community organizations, Indigenous groups, and local governments to educate communities on safe consumption. The 2018 Budget also set aside $20 million for government-led research on the impact of cannabis use on Canadians’ mental health, though exactly how much of that comes directly from cannabis tax revenue is unclear.
A government funded-poll found the majority of Canadians prefer that the tax revenue from legal weed be spent on healthcare, while few to none supported a PSA-style campaign on the uses and abuses of cannabis. A number of Canadians even wrote in alternatives, such as funding rehab and addiction treatment programs.
The Anvil – Alison is in the Reefer Madness article – 2017
Alison in The Anvil – The Anvil IS Hamilton’s Topical News Quarterly Publication
Down the Rabbit Hole by Brandon Braithwaite
There was a time in my life when I thought drugs were bad.
I still remember the DARE Bear being passed around my fifth grade classroom. I don’t know what a bear has to do with drugs or how they thought it would relate to fifth graders but there it is, planted in my memory as one of those random things I think about when pondering drug education. Their mandatory drug lessons had a strong impact on me, for years I was adamantly against drugs. The information they shared, the pictures they showed, the stories they told were frightening. Cemented inside of my head was a fear and belief that drugs, all drugs, were bad. In some ways that fear helped me, it kept me from experimenting too much and potentially falling down a hole that would be difficult to escape from. What I got from the teachings that I hate about myself was a belief that I am morally better than somebody that’s fallen down the hole.
A few days ago I sat down with a drug user (or as some like to say a substance user). She was anything but scary. Alison Myrden is a long time ‘substance user’ and advocate for the legalization of drugs. Alison consumes large quantities of cannabis, upwards of 100+ grams a day in concentrates and joints. She told me that she smokes 30 joints a day. I’ve seen the joints her partner Gary rolls and I couldn’t smoke even one on my own. I’m pretty sure she could smoke Snoop (Dogg)Lion himself under the table. Due to medicinal cannabis laws she is able to consume this much legally. She has a medical license for 150 grams a day.
Coming from a family of police and corrections officers then spending a lot of time herself as an officer in youth correctional facilities, Alison had no interest in heavy drugs or even marijuana. She wasn’t looking for a good time by getting high. What eventually drove her to try drugs was the constant pain. Her doctors tried anything and everything to find her a little bit of relief. “It was the world’s worst pain in my face and head, 24 hours a day. I used to take 32 pills a day, 2,000 mg of morphine a day, heroin, than cocaine.” As we chat in her living room I can tell that she’s still experiencing pain. She instinctively pokes at the side of her face with quite a bit of force. For almost thirty years Alison has lived with chronic progressive multiple sclerosis and a pain on both sides of her face called bilateral trigeminal neuralgia (aka Tic Douloureux). “The main symptom of tic douloureux is a sudden, severe, stabbing, sharp, shooting, electric-shock-like pain on one side of the face” (WebMD). The only thing that brings her relief is cannabis and a certain strain of blue capped magic mushrooms. Alison now spends much of her time advocating for the healing effects of Cannabis. She wants to make sure that others who suffer can get the relief they need.
Shortly after speaking with Alison I bumped into a hooded, erratic gentleman named Steven. A few of us from the Anvil had set up at the Central Library talking to passersby’s about drug addiction and legalization. It wasn’t easy, people weren’t interested in being recorded (lesson learned) and weren’t about to be stopped on their way out. Then out of nowhere came a middle-aged guy with a scraggly beard and hoodie. Speaking almost excitedly he told me that he was an intravenous drug user and had watched his friend pass away from fentanyl laced drugs only a few weeks prior. He told me he was on his way to his friends but wanted to chat more. After taking my number he left me with the title of a spectator article telling me to “read that before we chat, it will catch you up on who I am.” And then he was gone as fast as he had come. Intrigued to say the least, I jumped onto google and sure enough there he was, looking a tad younger and in a much healthier state. The article was 10 years old. It was about a City of Hamilton program that housed 18 people struggling with homelessness. Featured in the article was an interview with my hooded friend. Steven and his interviewer spoke about life, drugs and how trouble with the law led him to sleeping in Vancouver back alleys. From there he came to Hamilton where he stayed in the Good Shepherd shelters until being selected for the housing program. The interview ends with some questions about his future. When asked about what he would do for work, Steven replied “I have no clue. I have no skills at all, no education. Just getting back and finishing my Grade 12 is one of the things I want to do. But right now, it’s taking care of myself, and that is keeping clean. Keeping clean is more important than getting my Grade 12 because if I don’t stay clean, my Grade 12 won’t mean anything.” Other than not being clean, I have no idea how Steven’s life turned out. Sadly, we were unable to reconnect. However, I know from his own confession that he was back using intravenous drugs.
Many people use drugs to cover up some sort of pain. They’ll pop a pill, snort a line, light a joint or shoot up just to make life bearable enough to continue on. In some cases it might not be the best thing for them but that’s where they’re at. Excluding them more by labeling them law breakers, piling on more challenges in fines and jail time takes the focus off the health (physical or mental) of a person and makes it an issue of morality and punishment.
“If everything was legalized the community as a whole could better monitor people. There would likely be less over doses. We could have places that tested the quality to make sure product wasn’t laced with fentanyl.” I met Michelle for a coffee on one of the beautiful days in April. We sat outside, sipped coffee and chatted about her work as a Street Outreach Coordinator. She’s been part of the SO team for 13 years, working to make connections and build relationships with the absolute homeless of Hamilton, people living on the streets, under bridges, in parks or in shelters. “I think it all comes down to fear, stigma and stereotyping. The media (society) tells us this is what a drug user looks like. It gives us the wrong image of what users are.” Michelle’s work follows a philosophy of Harm Reduction. It simply means that they aim to reduce the harmful effects from behaviours that could be harmful. The Needle Exchange Van is a good example of harm reduction in action. It is literally a van that drives around Hamilton dropping off clean syringes (as well as other H.R. equipment) and picking up the used ones, no questions asked. The service helps prevent the spreading of diseases like Hepatitis C and Aids. “It can be very intimidating for someone to come to a service agency and confide that they are using a substance and trust that the agency won’t call the police. The Van Needle Exchange have a good reputation, they’ve been around for many years. People get to know these services, then friends start using them and they develop a really good relationship with people on the van.” Providing needed health care without the stigma builds a level of trust, in turn this strengthens a relationship and eventually the potential for intervention when the person is ready.
Recently a co-worker of mine shared an interesting story from a show called the West Wing.
“This guy’s walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can’t get out.
A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, ‘Hey you. Can you help me out?’ The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on.
Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, ‘Father, I’m down in this hole can you help me out?’ The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on
Then a friend walks by, ‘Hey, Joe, it’s me can you help me out?’ And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, ‘Are you stupid? Now we’re both down here.’ The friend says, ‘Yeah, but I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.”
Maybe addiction and substance abuse hasn’t caused you to fall down a hole but I am willing to bet that there is something that trips you up every now and then. If we could look at others with the same compassion we often show ourselves or would like to have shown to us then maybe we would see less people trapped in holes.
Alison on 100.7 BOSS FM from Oregon – 2018
Tune into the Archive page here: CANNABIS-MARIJUANA and YOU
AlISON on Cannabis and Coffee with Tamarijuana – 2018
Click the Link – Cannabis and Coffee with Tamarijuana
The Government of Canada has given me a prescription that I can’t fill!
The Government of Canada has given me a prescription that I can’t fill!
My name is Alison and I am 49 years old, have Chronic Progressive MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS and Left-side TRIGEMINAL NEURALGIA (a.k.a. Tic Douloureux ). After symptoms dating back to Cheerleading in High School, I was finally diagnosed in October 1992 at the age of 28, back to the age of 10 and 11 years old, with this puzzling disease.
Almost 20 years ago I had my most serious Exacerbation to date and lost full use of my body from the waist down. After many years off and on a walker, utilizing a wheelchair more often than I liked AND working with some wonderful therapists, I am happy to say I now walk most days with a cane. Sadly I was consuming very small amounts of cannabis through my Doctors but none of us knew the incredible benefits back then…
After being assessed by some of the TOP PAIN SPECIALISTS in this end of Canada, being prescribed every Opioid (short of Methadone), trying numerous Epileptic medications and following various Alternative Therapies from Acupuncture to Infra-Orbital Nerve Blocks, in early 1994 I was introduced to MEDICAL CANNABIS for relief from the pain in my face and head that is absolutely unbearable most days.
Soon after, I investigated all avenues trying to find help with the COST and SUPPLY of this natural substance that was giving me so much RELIEF and so FEW side effects. (I have been on FULL disability since 1995 so affordability was a KEY FACTOR in my being able to use this as MEDICATION being given my first “prescription” for cannabis in 1994/95). Enter the Canadian Government…
To find out more regarding my Application for an “Exemption from Section 56 of The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act” to my note on my Doctor’s Prescription Pad stating “Alison Myrden uses cannabis for relief from Multiple Sclerosis and a terrible pain in her face associated with MS called trigeminal neuralgia” in the mid to late 1990’s which then, ultimately turned into a License from “the Medical Marihuana Access Division” (MMAD). We now sport the new Regulations calling the Program the “Medical Marihuana Access Regulations” or what is now known as “MMAR”, please read on…
I have been smoking CANNABIS as MEDICINE through my Doctors for over 18 years; I have had face pain for over 23 years. I have been living with this pain around the clock 24/7 for 20 years as of the Summer of 2011.
I smoke half of a small Marijuana cigarette every 1/2 hour to hour to relieve the excruciating pain I experience in the left side of my face and head every day around the clock. Marijuana has helped me to come down from almost 2000 mg of Morphine per day. It has helped my leg spasms. It helped my bladder problems. It took away my nausea and stopped my constant vomiting. It has helped other symptoms that I wasn’t expecting. I am alert and functional after smoking and am NOT addicted to it. When will people understand that this is NOT a “hard drug” and that it DOES BENEFIT some of us MEDICINALLY!!!??? I have now come down from over 30 pills per day for symptoms ranging from nerve pain, to bladder dysfunction, to muscle spasms, to a third of my total and now try to rely on cannabis as much as possible for relief. I cannot stress how much my quality of life has improved since being introduced to this WONDERFUL, NATURAL plant!
I wish those of you luck who have approached your Doctors. I did and with their help, I am now one of, in and around 20,000 people in Canada to be given an Exemption or a LEGAL License, to be sanctioned by Health Canada and the Canadian Government to smoke, grow and possess a restricted amount of this MEDICATION anywhere in this country.
This issue has just been acknowledged by the Canadian Government and they have been reviewing applications for people battling a plethora of health conditions for these Exemptions as they are submitted. When word continues to get out about HOW to approach the Government for this Exemption, Health Canada’s offices will CONTINUE to be FLOODED!!
PLEASE, those of you who believe in this as MEDICATION, talk to your Doctors – THIS – is how things change! Be PRO-ACTIVE in your health! Ask the Doctor’s to fill out the forms in support of this as MEDICATION for YOUR HEALTH ISSUE(S).
There are some WONDERFUL LINKS to the many diseases which medical cannabis has been said to help, including what I suffer from – Multiple Sclerosis and Trigeminal Neuralgia (a.k.a. tic douloureux) – as well as Spinal Cord Injury, Hepatitis C, AIDS (effects from wasting syndrome), Epilepsy, Cancer, Glaucoma, Chronic Pain, Depression, Alcoholism, Drug Dependence and hundreds if not thousands MORE! I just wanted to to mention a few health conditions that I have read over the many years I have been doing this. For a List of more illnesses and issues please drop by my dear friend GRANNY STORM CROW’S Grannystormcrow list to see a List of MMJ and many of the recognized conditions cannabis helps
If I have given one person an alternative to some of the NEGATIVE PHARMACEUTICAL DRUGS that are out there, then MY WORK HAS ALL BEEN WORTH IT. I understand your frustration and respect your need for a more comforting approach to the many health issues we face in our daily lives. I am asking the Government for a SAFE, CLEAN (fungus/pesticide-free), AFFORDABLE SOURCE of this MEDICATION now that they are handing out EXEMPTIONS. How can they give us a “PRESCRIPTION” that we have to go the STREETS to fill?
This has been my battle since coming out to the MEDIA in APRIL of 2000 for help and assistance in legalizing and regulating cannabis once and for all. I am now helping fellow Exemptees and those looking for help all across Canada to be Licensed to consume medical cannabis to fight this issue, as their health is more than likely failing and I believe they have ENOUGH to deal with!
I am going to make sure that no one else has to risk THEIR health in fighting this same issue.
I am making it easier for YOU and – WE – need YOUR HELP!! I DO NOT want someone I love to have to deal with THESE ISSUES in the future…
Look out Canada, and WORLD ~ I’m here to stay !! :o)
Good Luck and Good Health to All!
Here is the Story of how myself and 20 others got the very first FEDERAL Exemption for medical cannabis from the Government of Canada in the year 1999/2000…
My Medical History
The reason I looked into getting an EXEMPTION from Section 56 of “The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act” or what is now called a License in “the Medical Marijuana Access Division” (the MMAD) under a branch of Health Canada in the Canadian Government called “the Medical Marihuana Access Regulations” (MMAR) started like this…
In 1995 I started getting a sporadic stabbing pain in my left face. This was controlled for a period of time with pharmaceutical medication. First I tried a short course of Solumedrol intravenously that relieved the pain. I continued with Prednisone for about ten days. October 1995 my pain was episodic and was kept under control with Tylenol # 3’s on an as needed basis. Next came a regular dose of Tegretol. This was increased in February ’96 to 200 mg three times a day. Pain returned and 25 mg Dantrium was added, increasing to four times a day. This was probably due more to leg spasms. In March ’96 Tegretol was increased by 200 mg because I was describing pain 8-9 out of a scale to 10.
April ’96 I was started on another well known epileptic medication called Dilantin, increasing this while decreasing Tegretol. June ’96 I was on 100 mg four times a day with relief for a few weeks. July ’96 pain came back full force and Dilantin was increased to 500 mg/day. There was still trouble with breakthrough pain. Late October ’96 pain increased, therefore I was told to increase my Dilantin… for the rest go to http://www.AlisonMyrden.com
Go to CNN iREPORT – Click Here
For a pot smoker in pain, no help is on the way
ALWYNNE GWILT – Published August 11, 2007 – Updated March 27, 2017
Sitting back on a comfy couch in her Burlington residence, Alison Myrden looks ready for battle. Two long braids are tucked under her black cargo cap, while sunshine hits her sparkling nose stud and glints off of her fierce amber eyes.
She’s passionate, ready to fight for her fellow multiple sclerosis sufferers.
A few weeks ago, though, Ms. Myrden’s lustre was lessened after she was denied a summer student – one of five hired to give companionship to MS sufferers – by the Burlington chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. The reason they gave her? The university students could be harmed by the marijuana she continually uses to control the savage pain in her face and help her walk.
“I don’t get depressed, but this one really hit me hard,” she says, her voice gruff.
Ms. Myrden, 43, has been fighting to help medical cannabis gain credibility for nearly 10 years, making headlines along the way. She was also once involved in law enforcement, working with young offenders who were often nailed for drug use.
“Then I’d go home and smoke [marijuana] It was completely hypocritical,” she says. She was diagnosed in 1992 at the age of 28, but continued in law enforcement until 1995.
After quitting her job when the disease caused her to lose feeling below her knees, she started using pharmaceuticals more heavily. Nowadays, without marijuana, she needs to take 32 pills and 2,000 milligrams of morphine a day to manage her pain, which makes her sleepy and unable to communicate easily. But with 20 to 28 grams of marijuana a day (one of the heaviest allowances in the country), she can cut her pill use by two-thirds, yet still remain wakeful and alert.
Ms. Myrden is hardly alone. Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world. Increasingly, sufferers of the disease are turning to cannabis use to alleviate their pain, since medical heroin or opium can cause nausea and other unpleasant side effects.
Cannabis use has been regulated by the government since 2001 under the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations. The program, which has nearly 2,000 patients, gives licences allowing those approved to carry certain amounts of marijuana, while often also giving growing privileges to a family member. With approval, marijuana can be smoked, eaten, made into tea or ointment, vaporized, or sprayed into the mouth.
Nonetheless, doctors, aid groups and lawyers all say that this country is far from where it needs to be on acceptance of marijuana as a drug therapy.
“Everyone sort of rolls their eyes and winks at you, but I think people have to start treating it as a serious drug that helps people,” says Dr. Allan Gordon, director of the Wasser Pain Management Centre at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.
Ms. Myrden’s lawyer, Alan Young, a York University law professor who’s led the charge on medical marijuana approval, said he’s surprised that the MS Society reacted this way, because it “has been quite supportive of marijuana research.”
But Robyn Halliwell, the interim director of the Burlington MS Society who delivered Ms. Myrden the news, said she’s trying to find balance between the rights of her staff and the needs of a client. “While we want to respect the rights of Alison to seek medical marijuana treatment, I believe there are five other people who have rights and should expect to work in a safe environment,” she says.
The program is meant to increase social activity for MS sufferers. Ms. Halliwell considers her request analogous to asking a person to stop smoking cigarettes in front of a volunteer, as per the smoke-free work-environment regulations. And while she said she’s not aware of any studies the MS Society of Canada has been doing on medical marijuana and has not read any studies on the therapy, she stressed the point that neither the summer students nor she are medically trained or allowed to handle it.
“Whether or not that is her pain reliever, the fact is, we’re still exposing our students to something where they could become high,” said Ms. Halliwell, who discussed the issue with a pharmacist and the national MS Society before making her decision.
Ms. Myrden now relies on her mother, Joyce, to help her out with making baked goods that contain the marijuana, a format that helps ease her nausea, allowing her to get a solid night’s rest.
Her lawyer, Mr. Young, says “mixed messages” in the legislation cause confusion about marijuana use. “If Alison were able to secure a tablet that had the same products in it, they wouldn’t blink,” he says. Since the Conservative government has moved away from decriminalization, they are unlikely to support a strong medical marijuana program, Mr. Young points out.
As well, as part of budget cuts last September, the government decided not to renew the medical marijuana research program, citing savings of $4-million over the next two years.
Ms. Myrden is hopeful the government will one day catch up with the apparent beliefs of the rest of Canada, which was recently found by the United Nations to have the highest usage rate of marijuana in the industrialized world.
Finally, she said, she wishes everyone could just get along and find a solution, because she doesn’t want to see this happen to anyone else.
“I don’t want to fight the [MS Society of Burlington] I don’t have the energy to,” she says wearily.
“[But]people like me are going to be coming for a long time in this country and they have to get used to us, because we have rights too.”
Click here for – Globe and Mail Story
‘Compassion clubs’ should be legal, says lawyer
CBC News Posted: Jan 27, 2006
A lawyer says Ottawa should authorize “compassion clubs” to supply marijuana to people who qualify under the government’s medical program.
Allan Young says the federal program creates licenced users of marijana, but does not allow them to buy it from a source of their choosing.
“The biggest problem is a supply issue,” he said. “It turns on whether medical users should be compelled to purchase their medicine from a government supply, which only supplies a limited strain of cannabis.”
Compassion clubs are private establishments where people can buy marijuana for medicinal use. Young says technically they’re illegal, but that none have been successfully prosecuted.
Young’s comments come in light of the case involving New Brunswicker Lynn Wood, who was convicted last year of trafficking marijuana. She claims she was operating a compassion club.
FROM FEB 21, 2005: Pot cafe´ owner found guilty of trafficking
Wood’s appeal is scheduled to be heard Feb. 23.
The Justice Department has an interest in this case because it’s one of 23 cases that challenge the federal marijuana laws, and Wood’s could be the first decision to come down.
Wood has declined to speak to news oulets before the appeal is heard.
Alison Myrden, a client of Young’s, is a licenced user because marijuana eases the pain of her multiple sclerosis. She prefers the high-grade pot available at compassion clubs over the kind she would get from a government source.
“I don’t want to break the law anymore than anybody else does,” she said. “These compassion clubs are our bread and butter. We have no place else to go. Nowhere else to shop.”
CBC News – Click Here
LEGAL AGE FOR POT USE LIKELY TO BE SET AT 19
Toronto Star July 22, 2017
From Canadian MAP INC
EDMONTON – Ontario is on track to set the legal age for recreational marijuana use at 19, Premier Kathleen Wynne says.
Wynne told the Star the age of majority should be the same for pot as it is for booze once the federal government legalizes cannabis next July 1.
“I have a hard time imagining Ontario will have a lower age for pot than we do for alcohol,” she said in an interview at the close of the annual premiers’ conference here.
The legal age for drinking beer, wine and spirits has been set at 19 in Ontario since 1978.
It’s impractical for the province to have a higher legal age for consuming cannabis than for alcohol, the premier added.
“I think that would be a challenge,” Wynne said, as a smoky haze from British Columbia forest fires blanketed Alberta’s capital. Her comments came as Ontario holds online consultations at Ontario.ca/cannabis, where citizens can fill out a survey until July 31, and through public hearings as the province develops its strategy.
As other provinces have, Ontario must decide where cannabis will be sold and where it can be used; set an age of majority and protect both road safety and public health.
The online survey asks participants a number of questions: if they support 19 as the age of majority for marijuana; if landlords and condo boards should be able to restrict pot smoking on their premises; whether cannabis should be sold through government or private retailers or a mixture of both, and whether stronger penalties are needed for drug-impaired driving.
Wynne said she is keeping a close eye on what standards Quebec will set, given that the two provinces share a boundary easily crossed by thousands of people every day, particularly in the Ottawa-Gatineau area.
“It must be the case,” Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said at the premiers’ conference, when asked if Ontario and his province should establish the same age of majority for cannabis.
Couillard quipped “imagine the traffic” imagining the circumstances if the ages were different, in light of the fact that several bridges connect the nation’s capital to Quebec across the Ottawa River.
Quebec’s legal drinking age is now set at 18, a year lower than Ontario’s and that of most other provinces. Alberta and Manitoba have also set 18 as their age of majority for alcohol.
A federal task force last year recommended 18 as the minimum legal age for recreational cannabis product and said Ontario and other provinces may want to set the age to 19 to match its age of majority for alcohol.
The Canadian Medical Association called for a minimum age of 21 for legal consumption of marijuana, saying its use at younger ages can damage teenagers’ brains.
TORONTO – Weed the North.
Queen’s Park turned into a big puff of smoke Saturday afternoon as some 20,000 marijuana activists gathered near the King Edward VII statue, before rallying together and walking in the 18th annual Global Marijuana March through the downtown core, spliffs in hand.
While the federal Liberals made a campaign pledge to legalize marijuana, many of the parade-goers felt like the federal government was dragging its feet.
“Thousands of people are still facing criminal charges,” said the event founder Neev, who refused to give his last name. “It should be legalized, it should be cheaper. It’s so expensive because it’s not legal yet. I appreciate the Liberals wanting to do it right, but the rollout is so slow.”
The Toronto event was one of the 100 marijuana parades scheduled in cities around the world. The crowd, some dressed up in costumes — a man was wearing a Superman bong mascot outfit – peacefully made their way across Bloor St. W., down Yonge St. before heading west on Wellesley St. back towards Queen’s Park, leaving behind them a cloud of smoke.
“Free the weed!” some chanted.
Burlington resident Alison Myrden, 52, joined the march in her wheelchair. She said smoking medicinal marijuana has allowed her to live with less pain while coping with progressive multiple sclerosis – an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system.
“It was the world’s worst pain in my face and head, 24 hours a day,” she explained. “I used to take 32 pills a day, 2,000 mg of morphine a day, heroin, then cocaine. It was 1990 when my doctor recommended medical cannabis. Now, I’m still going strong, but I’ve got a violent pain in my ear right now because I can’t afford a source.”
Michael “Puffdog” Thomas started growing his own cannabis plants in 1974 and now runs a vapour lounge in St. Catharines. He said the network of growing dispensaries in the GTA are at risk of criminalization because the only legal way to get weed right now is by mail through a licensed producer authorized by Health Canada.
“I’m tired of this war. It’s a war against peace,” he said. “Let’s not put people in jail over a plant.”
2014 poised to go to pot | The Star
As of Jan. 1, the world’s first pot shops opened for business in Colorado. More are planned for Washington state. In Uruguay, the first country to fully legalize marijuana, the government will oversee the sale of weed beginning this spring. And in Canada, where public support of pot has never been higher, new medical marijuana laws will usher in a free market that produces high-quality cannabis to support a rapidly growing number of users.
After years of being deemed an illegal substance, restrictions and attitudes toward pot in 2014 appear to be loosening up at a speed that has even marijuana activists pinching themselves.
South of the border, public opinion is driving the change. There are 20 states that permit medical marijuana use, and this week we learned New York is planning to do the same. Two of the 20 states allow recreational use, with others also considering it.
Faces of Pot:
Canada has a federally regulated medical marijuana program, but public opinion here supports greater legislative change.
No doubt, Canada — along with the rest of the world — will be watching groundbreaking changes in marijuana reform play out in other jurisdictions.
This could be the year Canadians decide to either embrace or reject marijuana reform, says pot activist and former corrections officer Alison Myrden, spokesperson for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
“This year is really important because it will help sway change,” says Myrden. “We are at a tipping point.”
Changing attitudes in Canada
Recreational marijuana use has been illegal in Canada since 1923, but that hasn’t stopped many from smoking up. According to a 2012 Health Canada study, 42 per cent of Canadians over age 15 — about 12 million people — admitted to having tried marijuana.
Defence lawyer Paul Lewin, who’s worked on many cases involving marijuana offences, says “attitudes are changing at all levels and by everybody: Crowns, police, citizens.”
Public opinion in support of decriminalizing possession of small amounts of pot — or even legalizing it — has never been so high, says Lewin, the Ontario regional director of the non-profit group NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws).
In recent years, major Canadian cities have seen the arrival of vapour lounges. The bring-your-own bud lounges are kind of like neighbourhood bars, but rather than drinking booze, people smoke pot.
These establishments give medical users a place to consume their medicine and get recreational smokers out of alleyways and parks.
Toronto has seven vapour lounges, the first opened in 2003. Last month, Get Melted Café opened on Church St., offering tokers gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches to ease their munchies.
“(Medical) marijuana has gone from the far fringe to the mainstream over the last 20 years,” says café owner Neev Tapiero, who opened one of Toronto’s oldest compassion clubs — Cannabis As Living Medicine or CALM — in 1996 to dispense cannabis to sick people.
There’s also a growing tolerance when it comes to possessing small amounts of weed. Many cops acknowledge that making an arrest over a few joints is a drain on police and court resources. Last summer, Canada’s police chiefs suggested ticketing instead of arrest for possession of 30 grams or less. Some have referred to this as de facto decriminalization, but police say they don’t support legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana, they simply want an extra enforcement tool.
Myrden sees ticketing as a “baby step” in the right direction. Ideally, she would like to see it legalized.
“I’ve been fighting (for marijuana reform) for 25 years and I can see that the laws are loosening,” says Myrden, who uses medical marijuana to ease symptoms for multiple sclerosis and tic douloureux, a nervous system disorder that causes facial pain. “(The issue) is on the table like never before.”
But Doug Hutchinson, a professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto, sees ticketing differently.
“Adding this power to the police arsenal will result in more enforcement, and this is why police chiefs are pressing for it,” says Hutchinson, an expert in medical marijuana. “It will permit police to threaten cannabis users without needing to collect and preserve evidence carefully, for use in the future criminal trial to which every defendant has a right.
“Likewise, if a man armed with a gun threatens you, arming him with a knife as well does not loosen his control over you; on the contrary, this will permit him to threaten you even in situations when he can’t fire his gun.”
Politics and pot
Although other jurisdictions are embracing more liberal pot laws, Lewin says Canada’s Conservatives aren’t keeping pace.
“We’re moving against the grain,” he says. “We’re bringing in tougher laws.”
In 2012, as Colorado and Washington states voted to legalize cannabis, the Conservative government in Canada ratcheted up penalties by introducing mandatory minimum prison sentences, such as six months in jail for growing six marijuana plants.
This, despite a growing number of Canadians who support relaxing marijuana laws.
In 2012, an online Angus Reid survey found 57 per cent of Canadians support legalization and 68 per cent described the “war on drugs” as a failure.
Then, a Forum Research poll done last summer found 69 per cent of Canadians support decriminalizing possession of small amounts or outright legalization and taxation, compared with 66 per cent two years ago. Support was highest among those aged 18 to 34 and boomers aged 55 to 64.
People of all political stripes supported loosening restrictions, but Conservative supporters were most lukewarm to the idea, with 62 per cent in favour, compared with 76 per cent of Liberal supporters and 73 per cent of NDPers.
The August poll was taken a month after federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau announced his support of legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana, and a day after he admitted he smoked marijuana while a sitting MP. The NDP favours decriminalizing pot.
“The Tories had this idea that (Trudeau) made a faux-pas, but really he didn’t because that’s really where the public is standing in this issue,” said Forum Research President Lorne Bozinoff. “This would have been a faux-pas 30 years ago, but not now, because the country has moved on. . . . It’s now evolved to the point where (marijuana) is not a big deal anymore.”
Lewin adds, “often on political issues you see the parties rush to the middle . . . . But this is a rare issue in which the parties have gone to the far extremes. . . . It’s such an extreme stark choice that it can’t help but be a big issue in the 2015 election.”
Canada’s new medical marijuana law
Canada’s medical marijuana program is set to undergo a major overhaul — a move generating praise and criticism.
Under the outgoing system, introduced in 2001, doctors signed a form stating conventional treatments weren’t working and the patient was licensed by Health Canada to possess marijuana. The patient would either buy weed from the government, grow it themselves or designate a grower. Most preferred the latter two options as they were most cost-effective. However, police complaints about unsafe grow-ops, home invasions and vast amounts of medical marijuana diverted to the black market prompted the overhaul.
With the new Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR), which was introduced in the fall but takes full effect on April 1, the government will no longer license users or sell weed. Nor will personal production be allowed. Instead, it will be up to doctors and nurse practitioners to prescribe marijuana, which must then be purchased from licensed producers supplying high-quality marijuana free of mould, pesticide and fungus.
That means compassion clubs, such as CALM, will be forced to shut down by April 1. Tapiero, however, hopes to become a licensed producer.
For private industry, the potential for profit is enormous. There are about 37,500 licensed users. But Health Canada anticipates by 2024 there will be more than 450,000 people using pot for medical reasons, generating $1.3 billion in annual sales. Producers will also be able to import or export weed, potentially making Canada a leader in an emerging industry.
Even though a growing number of doctors have come to accept marijuana, many are still opposed. The Canadian Medical Association and the Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada say there is no clinical evidence to justify pot as medicine. It also doesn’t like that the new law puts the onus on doctors, who have no information on when to prescribe it, correct dosages or possible side effects.
Eliminating bureaucratic red tape puts an end to wait times for licences and gets rid of illness categories, both significant improvements, say advocates. However, some say eliminating personal production and forcing patients to purchase marijuana will make the cost prohibitive for those on a fixed income. Growing pot costs between $1to $4 a gram, whereas the commercial price is estimated to range between $6 and $12. (Buying it on the street costs about $10 a gram.)
“This will have the perverse effect of driving many medical marijuana patients back to much more dangerous medicines, such as opioids,” says Lewin. “And also forcing medical marijuana patients to the black market to face further stress and danger.”
A recently filed lawsuit in a B.C. federal court argues that taking away users’ right to grow is a violation of their constitutional rights.
Marijuana making history
Although the Dutch are famous for their drug policies, recreational drugs are illegal in the Netherlands, which tolerates the purchase and consumption of cannabis in strictly regulated coffee shops.
This year, U.S. states and Uruguay are poised to make marijuana history.
When recreational sales of marijuana became legal in Colorado on Jan. 1, dubbed Green Wednesday, consumers lined up for hours at state-licensed shops, eager to buy weed, marijuana cookies, brownies and even lozenges. It’s estimated first-day sales surpassed $1 million U.S. and business has remained brisk for the “ganjapreneurs.”
The state set a tax on marijuana products at 25 per cent and earmarked the revenue to build new schools and beef up pot-related law enforcement. In Denver, the aptly named Mile-High City, The Denver Post has hired a marijuana editor to oversee coverage of this new market.
Washington state passed similar legislation, but retailers won’t open until mid-year. Meanwhile support for legalization is growing in Alaska, California, Maine, Oregon and Rhode Island, which allow medical marijuana. There are 20 states, along with the District of Columbia, where medical marijuana laws have been enacted.
In addition, Maryland permits medical use as a defence and mitigating factor in marijuana-related cases. And last year it passed a law allowing medical centres to distribute pot in compassion programs, which are only expected to be operational in 2015.
In the U.S., marijuana remains illegal under federal laws. However, the Justice Department has said it won’t challenge legalization in states as long as regulations are introduced that, for instance, prevent pot from being distributed to minors, profits from going to organized crime, and weed being diverted to states where it’s illegal.
Legislative changes come at a time when more than half of Americans support legalizing marijuana, outlawed about 80 years ago. In the fall, a Gallup poll showed a record 58 per cent of Americans favour legalization — up 10 per cent in one year — compared with 12 per cent in 1969. Pollsters say changing social mores and the increasing prevalence of medical marijuana are likely contributing to the growing support.
Attitudes about policing pot laws are also changing, according to a Pew Research study in 2013, which found 72 per cent of Americans think enforcing such laws aren’t worth the cost. The U.S. Justice Department seems to agree its war on drugs approach isn’t working out as planned. Last summer it announced it would stop imposing mandatory sentences on minor drug offences.
Other big changes are also taking place further south. In December, Uruguay became the first country to legalize and regulate marijuana, which it hopes to start selling in April.
The South American nation may sell pot for as little as $1 a gram, in an effort to take on organized crime groups and drug traffickers that have dominated the drug trade and left a trail of bloodshed.
Uruguay’s landmark legislation has other countries considering similar laws, including Jamaica, Chile, Trinidad and Tobago. In Argentina, the country’s top anti-drug official recently called for a national discussion on the issue.
The Star spoke to seven people for whom marijuana is part of their every day life.
Friday: The vapour lounge owner
Monday: The police officer
Tuesday: The medical user
Wednesday: The recreational user
Friday: The grower
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