Retired Corrections Officer & Drug Law Reform Activist
I began my career as a Corrections Officer in 1988 after working with the Children’s Aid Society. I worked at troubled youth facilities around Southern Ontario and eventually solidified my niche with young offender cases in early 1989 at an organization called Community Resource Services. I was responsible for various duties including court, facility shifts, and court liaison for Cassatta Youth Custodial Facilities, Dawn Patrol Child Youth Services, and Syl Apps Youth Centre. One of my most challenging assignments included a short stint working with psychiatric young offenders at Syl Apps.
While working in the Youth Court Justice system, I noticed that many young offenders were in trouble with the law for simple experimentation with illicit drugs. This seemed very wrong to me and felt it would be better to educate these young people about drugs instead of punishing them. It seemed that our youth were being criminalized for no good reason.
Years later, sitting in court, I again noticed that many poor, under-educated, and vulnerable youth were being jailed for experimentation with drugs – mostly cannabis. The court’s message was at odds with my own experience and research as I knew that drug prohibition was not resulting in a positive impact for individuals, communities, or nations.
For over 30 years I’ve known that the “War on Drugs” is more of a “War on People,” empowers organized crime, does far more harm than good, and has to be stopped. That’s why I’ve given over 1000 interviews and media appearances on these topics and will continue doing whatever I can to secure freedom for all. That means not one person in any country imprisoned or punished for what they choose to put in their body and the full legalization and responsible regulation of all drugs.
For 12 years I joined the chorus of law enforcement voices calling for an end to the drug war by being a speaker for the group LEAP – Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, today known as Law Enforcement Action Partnership until my health deteriorated and I needed to focus more on my well being. The challenges to freedom over what we put in our body were not limited to my career. Pain comes for us all.
I started getting a sporadic, excruciating stabbing pain in my left face in my early 20’s, and before my retirement in 1992 I was diagnosed with chronic progressive Multiple Sclerosis (MS). The intense pain in my face, I learned, was a condition, sometimes associated with MS, called Tic Douloureux (TD) aka Trigeminal Neuralgia, Fothergill Disease, or Trifacial Neuralgia, which my maternal great-grandfather also suffered from 100 years ago.
The pain from TD is considered “the most excruciating pain known to humanity.” The pain was partially addressed for a period of time with trying various prescription pharmaceuticals, but even with increasing doses I would still experience pain 8-9 out of a scale to 10. These conditions greatly affected my ability to live a normal life, for example, I am not able to walk without a cane for balance, my face and head are excruciating CONSTANTLY.
Over those first few years I continued trying many of the drugs and procedures doctors offered. One doctor stuck a needle the size of my whole head in the left side of my face and searched everywhere to relieve the pain! I will NEVER do that again! I was even prescribed doctor-supervised cocaine and heroin therapy, but even that was insufficient. Some brought temporary relief, but had negative side-effects like feeling very spacey, feeling constantly nauseous, perpetual drowsiness, excessive weight gain, etc., often requiring further drugs to counteract them.
Around 1993, without doctor approval I tried cannabis and found I was pain-free for almost 24 hours after one cigarette! The doctors specializing in pain that had overseen my case, for the first time, began seeing my cannabis usage as medicine. With cannabis, psilocybin and other natural medicines, my need for my pills was becoming less and less. I found I was getting relief from all of my symptoms from MS and this violent pain in my face and head and no longer required as many of those pharmaceuticals.
After over 30 years of following this regime, things were becoming more bearable, greatly improving my quality of life by using mainly high quality fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, I am thrilled to learn I HAVE NOT PROGRESSED IN MY DISEASE IN OVER 30 YEARS!!!
While my pain has increased dramatically over the last ten years, I have continued to find pain relief from using cannabis and other currently-illicit substances such as psilocybin and LSD. Today I continue to fight this violent pain I experience in my face and head and find some quality of life. It helps that I have the options to vaporize my cannabis, drink my psilocybin and cannabis medicines in tea, or eat edibles, etc. This is far better than the daily 32 pills I took every day for almost 20 years! Depending on the strain of cannabis and psilocybin, I can have a lot, or a little relief as so few strains of both give me any break from feeling the excruciating pain I experience around the clock.
I know with me, I get a little fuzzy, then I feel like any normal person does within minutes after I smoke cannabis. I am also pain-free in 10 minutes when I smoke the right strain of cannabis or eat psilocybin with the proper compounds – VERY IMPORTANT for someone like me whose pain increases so quickly. If I don’t catch it, I am in EXCRUCIATING pain in minutes! That’s why pills never would work – they take too long to take effect. I am an intelligent woman who has made a choice. I chose cannabis, psilocybin and other natural therapies, and thankfully they work!
Had I been born earlier in the 20th century, I’d either be on a series of (mediocre at best) pills, or in prison for daring to use the safest, most-effective plants and medicines available. It’s a horrible injustice that any government criminalizes any human being based on what they choose is right for them. Beyond ending the drug war, another big issue I care about is affordability and access to medication. Legality obviously has a huge impact on this because I couldn’t afford to purchase cannabis or psilocybin from the street at the quantity and quality I required. For a number of years I have tried to grow my own medicine but I’m still having a hard time consistently finding strains strong enough to help me and alleviate all my health problems.
In 1999 I told my local Member of Parliament about my situation and asked them what to do. Within a week they had mailed me out an “Interim Guidance” document to take to my doctors to fill out. I also had some writing to do, I was told. The first letter I wrote was to the Honorable Alan Rock, Canada’s Health Minister at the time. I requested to be involved in the next immediate study involving Chronic Pain and Marijuana or Multiple Sclerosis and Marijuana.
Mr. Rock had just released a plan to initiate trial studies involving medicinal uses of cannabis. I also explained I NEEDED some help covering the cost of my medication. My mother also wrote to Mr. Rock pleading for some of the burden to be taken off of us and to somehow have the exorbitant cost of my cannabis covered. At that time we were spending on average, $1200 each month for me to find pain relief. HOW FAIR WAS THIS?! I am not only on full disability, but I didn’t choose for these to be the only medications that actually worked for me.
I have tried many, many more treatments before turning to psilocybin and then cannabis only to realize that these are actually some of the only substances on Earth that give me relief and don’t have the awful side effects that I was encountering daily from synthetic medication. Within five months of applying, I received a response from the Office of the Minister of Health stating that there were, “NO planned trials involving MS and marijuana.”
In 2000, I was among the first of what are now thousands of Canadians, given a Ministerial Exemption from Section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, now known as a “License for Medical Cannabis” under the Medical Marijuana Access Regulations” (MMAR) in the Medical Marijuana Access Division (MMAD) at Health Canada.
What a mouthful!
For years I had to risk getting a criminal record and imprisonment to acquire my cannabis from unregulated growers. For this I COMPLETELY blame our former Conservative government led by
My purpose now is to secure a SAFE, CLEAN, AFFORDABLE YEAR-ROUND SUPPLY of these natural substances for not only myself, but for ALL of the other people in Canada who would benefit. Every person in pain should be given the respect they deserve and be offered a SAFE, CLEAN, and AFFORDABLE supply of these substances by their government if they find relief. On April 7, 2017, my neurologist signed paperwork for me authorizing me as the “First person in the world to be legally allowed to consume psilocybin as medicine at 50 grams a day for pain relief.”
As of September of 2020, through my courageous lawyer, Paul Lewin at Cannabis and Psychedelics Law, I applied to be one of the first people in Canada to have the legal right to psilocybin as medicine via a Section 56 from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. However, I was told further investigation is needed before the Government can LEGALLY ALLOW ME…
To this day, the Canadian Government and HELLth Canada IGNORE MY PLEAS FOR HELP to access essential medication and no longer be considered a criminal for my pursuit of relief from THE MOST EXCRUCIATING PAIN KNOWN TO HUMANITY.
When full legalization of cannabis arrived in Canada on October 17th, 2018, I was so happy to finally see more progress on this issue. But a lot more needs to change to right the wrongs of horrible drug policies and address medical needs. No matter our situation in life, pain is pain, and health rights are human rights. Everyone’s voice matters on these issues, so I hope you’ll join the journey for equality.
Federal Medical Cannabis Exemptee in Canada since 1994
World’s First Medical Psilocybin Patient for Pain from 2017
Global Drug Law Reform Activist
Canadian Patient Representative for the IACM
International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines
NDP Candidate for Oakville, Ontario 2004
New Democratic Party of Canada