Guns bristle from a masked mob of police enforcers, breaking into a house looking for a medicine that relieves everything from migraines to muscle spasms. They have been given orders to ruthlessly destroy the lives of anyone drawing their health from the medicinal powers of cannabis.
In Canada, these orders originate with the Department of Health. While the drug war continues in the homes of innocent Canadians, Minister of Health Alan Rock tells the press he is moving forward on the legalization of medical cannabis. On October 6, Rock announced 14 more medical users will be given legal access to marijuana under the “section 56” program he initiated earlier this year. His cynical announcement comes even while the unchecked oppression of medical cannabis users continues across the country.
Sick under siege
December 9, 1998 in Cobden, Ontario, about an hour and a half north of Ottawa. Rob Brown, who lives with Hepatitis C and suffers from cancers of the liver, spleen, prostate and bladder, is raided by police who thieve the life-saving cannabis plant from his home. They leave him to suffer the debilitating effects of his illnesses without medicine.
“I have been fighting with vomiting and diarrhea for 5 years,” says Brown. “I suffer from a lot of pain inside. I use cannabis as an anti-spasmodic, emetic and analgesic. I also eat it to control my stool, because the fiber content is indigestible, so when I have diarrhea, at least it has some body to it.”
Brown also makes oil from the leaves and applies it to facial lesions caused by liver malfunction. An overnight application, Brown says, heals the lesions. Brown even praises cannabis’ ability to slow the growth of tumours.
When his plants were taken, Brown’s health deteriorated rapidly.
“Between the ninth and twenty-third of December, I went from 218 pounds to 135 pounds, and wound up in the hospital on emergency hydration and nutrition,” recalls Brown. “I went from there onto chemotherapy for seven months and had to fight every step of the way. The chemotherapy didn’t work. After 6 months they tested for the virus, and it had increased 5 times. I’m having a hell of a time. My toes are starting to turn blue.”
Brown eventually recovered some of his weight and health with the help of cannabis. Unable to grow it on his own, his bills for medicinal bud reached an enormous $6000. Despite the Health Minister’s promise of legal medical marijuana, Brown will still face charges of cultivation and possession for the purposes of trafficking on January 3, 2000.
October 2, 1999 on a rural organic farm just outside of Fort Que’pelle, Sas-katchewan. Charles Scott, who suffers from chronic pain in his knee and a diagnosed case of anti-social personality disorder, is raided by police. They claim to be visiting his farm to investigate complaints that Scott has a “skinny pig.” While the farmhand is showing the pig, police slip around the house for a closer look, and then come back later with a warrant.
Scott’s medical marijuana grow operation, which supplied himself and many other medical cannabis users, is torn to the ground and trashed. Copies of Cannabis Culture are also illegally removed by police. Charles Scott’s pregnant wife, Lianne, is so traumatized by police that she is brought to hospital. Doctors tell Charles Scott that his wife may have a miscarriage.
During the raid, police also seize Scotts’ livestock, leaving him destitute, forcing him to turn to the food bank to feed himself, his wife, his seven-year-old daughter and his four-year-old son. Scott cannot make mortgage payments and faces the prospect of losing his farm. During an extremely trying time, he has no medicine to treat his psychological, emotional and physical pain.
While interviewing Scott over the phone, in the background I heard his toddler son, Seth, who attacked an officer during the raid, break into the conversation for a moment. “You know who I hate, daddy? I hate the government. They steal your money.”
Patterns of persecution
When Rob Brown and Charles Scott were arrested, their wives were also charged with the same “offences”, cultivation and possession for the purpose of trafficking. Less than a week after his arrest, Charles Scott called Cannabis Culture to report that officers had dropped by his home. They told Scott that they were going to the hospital to press charges against his wife, who was battling to save her unborn child.
Rick Reimer, Rob Brown’s lawyer, explains the officers’ strategy: “Their style is to swoop down with heavily armed officers and SWAT teams and charge every member of the family that they raid. Not that they doubt who it is, but because by charging mom and sis and brother they have much more likelihood of extracting a guilty plea from one of the four, which is usually dad.”
Another common tactic of police seeking to inflict disease and hardship on innocent Canadians, says Reimer, is to make medical marijuana growers look bad in the press.
“They are filling the media with pictures of guns they are finding, and greatly in-flated values for the pot they are seizing,” says Reimer. “They are making it look like they are going after Colombian drug lords or something.”
Charles Scott remembers how officers harassed his wife. “They kept on screaming at her, ‘where’s the guns!?’ We didn’t have any.”
Police also exagerrated the value of Brown’s garden. Of his 65 plants, about 32 were males, some already dead. Brown’s usual take from each plant was about 1/2 oz of schwaggy bud. All the plants were under a single 1000-watt light, and worth perhaps $100 each. Yet police assessed each of the 65 plants as being worth $1000. Police assessed Brown’s $3,300 harvest as being worth at least $65,000.
Years of breeding lost
Canada’s Ministry of Health tells the public that it is interested in doing cannabis research, yet the most advanced research in the country is being routinely destroyed at the hands of police.
“They were the best plants that I had found for the illness that I had in my body,” says Brown. “Sometimes the biggest disadvantage I feel [with other cannabis]is that I get so high that I forget to smoke and I wind
Charles Scott was also growing a plant especially suited to his condition. “The kind of cannabis I was growing was specifically good for two things? for acute pain and depression,” asserts Scott.
Charles Scott phoned the Ministry of Health and begged them to preserve the unique genetics of the species he was breeding. An official named Brad Buckston answered Scott’s call.
“I said that I had spoken to Wakeford the day before and that it didn’t seem like he could provide for his own needs,” recalls Scott. “And Buckston said, ‘I guess Wakeford will have to buy off of the street.’ Then he said that no medical marijuana will be grown by farmers in Canada, it will be produced only by the government, in laboratory conditions.”
Moving forward or being dragged?
The Ministry of Health may appear to be moving forward on medical cannabis in the eyes of the media, but the government is doing exactly the opposite behind the scenes.
Rock’s announcement of 14 more legal medical users could be compared to giving a baby a pat on the head while you steal its candy.
The 14 new exemptions were made public only one day before the government took Terry Parker back to court to appeal an earlier decision ? a decision which gave Parker the constitutional right to medical marijuana to treat his epilepsy (see CC#23, Constitutional challenges continue).
Should Parker get a constitutional exemption everyone with a cannabis-treatable ailment? those with epilepsy, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, or cancer? will have access to the healing herb. As it stands now, the minister is giving exemptions only to the terminally ill, principally those with AIDS.
Jean Pariseau was one of the first two AIDS sufferers living in Canada to receive a section 56 exemption from the minister. His exemption came only a few weeks after his home was raided by RCMP. Aubert Martin, who was growing medical marijuana in Pariseau’s basement for Pariseau and others with legitimate illnesses, was charged with cultivation and possession for the purpose of trafficking.
Although Pariseau has received an exemption from the minister, Martin will still be in court to face charges on April 1, 2000. This raises a question: How are medical users, who may not be able to grow their own, supposed to get cannabis when the suppliers continue to be charged? From a government laboratory that doesn’t yet exist?
Bill Small, former director of the Vancouver Compassion Club, is also being charged with multiple counts of cultivation for the outrageous and illegal act of growing medicine for the sick. In search of the truth behind the Minister of Health’s medical marijuana program, Small has been to Ottawa, and rubbed shoulders with contacts at the Health Ministry. In an exclusive interview with Cannabis Culture, Small reveals how pharmaceutical corporations have undermined legal medical marijuana in Canada.
“At the Health Protection Branch [HPB],” says Small, “they refer to the pharmaceutical companies as their clients. It’s sinister. The HPB is 100% funded by pharmaceutical companies. They are effectively privatized.”
The HPB is the division of the Ministry of Health responsible for controls and restrictions on herbs, vitamins and drugs. A subdivision of the HPB known as the Therapeutic Products Program (TPP), makes experimental drugs available to the public before they are fully approved by the HPB.
“It is the first stage of exposure to the public of the pharmaceutical companies’ new ‘wonder drugs,'” explains Small. “It is a guinea-pig laboratory thing.”
According to Bill Small, the TPP was also responsible for the legal medical marijuana applications process, known as the “section 56 exemption.” When Jim Wakeford, who lives with AIDS, sued the government for legal medical marijuana, he was told that he would have to apply to the ministry, for a section 56. The TPP ignored his application for months, eventually prompting a judge to give Wakeford legal medical use until the Ministry of Health could process Wakeford’s exemption. Alan Rock, the Minister of Health, finally stepped into what had become a highly political situation and granted Wakeford an exemption last summer.
The TPP also shut down a process by which marijuana may have been made available to the public through a branch of the ministry called the Natural Health Products Directorate, says Small, who are supposedly working out regulations for herbs and vitamins.
“The idea is that they make the public think they are doing something,” Small says. “Then, when everyone thinks something is being done, they shut down the program without telling anyone. The illusion of progress persists.”
If illusion is the primary function of the Ministry of Health, then the section 56 exemptions granted by Alan Rock are likely nothing more than a scam ? an attempt to bamboozle the public with the false appearance that the Canadian government is moving forward on medical marijuana.