Marijuana is Medicine

Marijuana is Medicine

The following appeared in the May 25 Toronto Star, and was taken from theirweb page

Please send some positive feedback to the Toronto Star at[email protected]or fax them at (416) 869-4322.

You should be able to contact Grant and Marie Kreiger through Highwear Hempin Regina, Saskatchewan. Phone: 306-586-4367. Fax: 306-584-5141. Email:[email protected].

Marijuana is Medicine

Patient Defies Pot Laws

By Tracey Tyler – Toronto Star Legal Affairs Reporter

Along with his passport and suitcase, Grant Krieger hopes to walk throughCanada Customs tomorrow with 50 grams of marijuana, in defiance of federalnarcotics laws.

But this isn’t a clandestine operation.

The 41-year-old multiple sclerosis sufferer from Regina has politelynotified authorities of his intentions, carefully orchestrated to supporthis cause.

Naturally, Krieger says, he doesn’t want to get arrested when he lands atPearson International Airport.

But if he is, his act of civil disobedience will create an opportunity totest whether the Canadian justice system is prepared to accommodate thechronically and terminally ill, who use cannabis to alleviate theirsuffering – or retain the option of sending them to jail.

I smoke marijuana to help me with this disease. I use it as medication,”Krieger said in an interview from Amsterdam, where he has obtained adoctor’s prescription for the drug.

“With it, I can walk without a cane. It helps stop the tremors that gothrough my body. It helps the spasms that I get.”

The purchase and sale of marijuana for medicinal purposes by people withcancer, glaucoma and other chronic conditions in Canada is estimated to bea $20 million to $25 million-a-year industry – all underground, says SamSmith, of Cambridge, who helps co-ordinate the network. His wifeaccompanied Krieger to the Netherlands.

That could change if several Tory and Liberal senators who are studyingfederal drug legislation have their way. They say they favordecriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana and hashish.

But that doesn’t help Krieger with his immediate problem. The federalNarcotics Control Act allows for up to life imprisonment for anyone caughtimporting or exporting drugs, except pharmaceutical companies, which, undercertain conditions, can bring it in.

In 1988, a Toronto judge allowed Terry Parker, an epileptic, to possessabout one gram of marijuana to control his condition. But that was anisolated case.

While Krieger, if time allows, could get a special permit from the federalgovernment allowing him to possess marijuana for medicinal purposes inCanada, that doesn’t get around the importing ban, says Toronto criminallawyer Aaron Harnett, who has been retained to help him out.

Prime Minister Jean Chr=E9tien made it clear to a high school studentaudience in Charlottetown, P.E.I., yesterday that decriminalizing marijuanais not a priority for his government, The Star’s Derek Ferguson reports.

“It’s a question of values in society,” said Chr=E9tien, a former justiceminister. “For me, I’m not feeling strongly about it, but I don’t think itis a priority for the government at this time to change (the law).”

Canada Customs officials have suggested they may turn a blind eye toKrieger if he has a doctor’s letter along with the cannabis, but that stilldoesn’t mean police won’t step in, Harnett says.

And although an active ingredient in marijuana, 9THC, is available inCanada by prescription, Harnett says it is unknown whether this substanceworking alone is what alleviates suffering when a chronically ill personsmokes the drug.

Krieger learned he had multiple sclerosis about 20 years ago, shortly afterhe was married, his wife Marie said in an interview from the couple’s homein Regina.

A disease of the central nervous system, MS is characterized byinflammation of the myelin covering of the nerves and can causeuncontrolled muscle spasms, mobility and vision problems.

While his condition went into remission for several years, Marie Kriegersays her husband’s symptoms were reactivated a few years ago after he wasinjured in a car accident.

The spasms are “like having a charley horse hit your body every fewseconds,” Grant Krieger says. “It hurts like hell.”

He used demerol and, later, morphine to reduce pain. But, Krieger says, hestopped using morphine because he didn’t want to become addicted. Withmarijuana, which he bakes in his food and inhales through a smoking device- because of his condition, he has lost the dexterity to roll a joint – hecan alleviate his suffering yet still function, he says.

And that, he believes, shouldn’t be against the law.

Krieger is believed to be the first person in Canada to put those beliefsto the test. Last year, a Rhode Island native, Todd McCormick, 25, tried asimilar tack, importing 13.6 kilograms of marijuana to relieve what he saidwas the pain left by 10 childhood occurrences of cancer.

At the time, the president of the 3,000-member American Judges Associationsaid he found it “incongruous that a doctor can prescribe for thewell-being of his patients narcotic drugs like morphine that arehabit-forming, but they can’t prescribe marijuana.”

Krieger puts it another way: “I’m tired of smoking in the closet. I thinkthere’s nothing really wrong with it. I don’t get high any more. But whatit does is give me a better quality of life.”

But that’s not an opinion shared by Regina city police. They raided thecouple’s home last Sunday, while Grant was in Amsterdam, seizingapproximately three ounces of marijuana and $5,000 in cash.

Both Kriegers were charged with trafficking in narcotics. The couple hassold marijuana to people with glaucoma, other chronic illnesses and”consenting adults,” Marie Krieger says, to offset the cost of purchasingthe estimated 50 grams Grant smokes – at $10 a gram – about every 10 days.

That’s the equivalent of about 50 cigarettes, says Smith, of Cambridge.

The stress of the police raid has been unbearable, particularly on thecouple’s three children, Marie Krieger says.

But is there really any evidence supporting the claim of therapeuticbenefits from cannabis use?

An international committee studying alleged therapeutic remedies for MSdeclined to recommend marijuana as a form of treatment, says DeannaGrotzinger of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada.

The committee, which published its conclusion in the 1993 edition ofTherapeutic Claims in Multiple Sclerosis, found no scientific basis for thetheory that pot reduces symptoms, noting the absence of properly controlledclinical trials.

One study looking at nine patients found that seven felt better after usingmarijuana as opposed to a placebo, but the same study also found that oneperson on the placebo reported feeling “high.”

In another study, two of eight patients reported reduced tremors andimproved co-ordination after using marijuana.

“I think there have been anecdotal reports over the years that marijuanadid seem to be beneficial to some patients in treating their spasticity,but the number of cases are small,” says Dr. William McIlroy, a neurologistand national medical adviser to the MS society.

“Weighed against that is the known fact that long-term use of marijuana canhave an effect on memory, so you have to consider the risks along with thebenefits,” McIlroy says.

A number of prescription drugs are available in Canada to control spasmsexperienced by MS patients, but they vary in effectiveness from person toperson, he says.

Krieger says he’s tried them. He suffered side-effects, including bladderand vision problems, which left him unable to drive, he says.

“It’s not clean medication,” he says.

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