Remembering Medical Marijuana User Marilyn Holsten

A memorial protest was held for Marilyn Holsten on Sept 2, 2009. (Click pictures to enlarge - Photos by Jeremiah Vandermeer)A memorial protest was held for Marilyn Holsten on Sept 2, 2009. (Click pictures to enlarge – Photos by Jeremiah Vandermeer)CANNABIS CULTURE – Vancouver activists held a protest yesterday in memory of Marilyn Holsten, a diabetic double-amputee who died from a heart attack shortly after she was given an eviction notice by her landlord for using medical marijuana.

“It’s incredibly inhumane that anyone could treat someone like that in this country that we call civilized,” Marilyn’s sister Moira O’Neill told Cannabis Culture and other media attending the memorial protest. “I’m hurt over my sister’s treatment and incredibly anguished over how she had to spend the last few days.”

Nearly one-hundred people attended the solemn event, including NDP MP Libby Davies and marijuana activist (and CC publisher) Marc Emery, to call for an end to the mistreatment of medical marijuana users like Marilyn.

“My own feeling is that the management here did not act in a responsible, caring way,” said Davies. “The experience that Marilyn had was terrible. This was a woman who had major health, financial, and physical obstacles in her life. I’ve never seen anybody so grounded, so able to focus on what she needed to do, and to literally take on the system.”

Marilyn Holsten was a 48-year-old resident of the Anavets Senior Citizens Housing Society who was diabetic, confined to a wheelchair after having both her legs amputated, and nearly blind. After finding out the hard way that doctor-prescribed opiates were not right for her, she obtained status as a legal medical marijuana user.

NDP MP Libby Davies speaking with Green Party candidate Jodie Emery and marijuana activist Marc Emery.NDP MP Libby Davies speaking with Green Party candidate Jodie Emery and marijuana activist Marc Emery.After eight years at Anavets, she was served an eviction notice in April 2009 because of complaints of the smell of marijuana coming from her apartment. With the help of Marc Emery and lawyer Kirk Tousaw, Marilyn appealed the decision but was denied by the B.C. Residential Tenancy Branch and forced to move by the end of August. Her story was covered in detail by The Province newspaper.

Marilyn suffered a heart attack and passed away before she was removed from her home, but her family and friends think the extreme stress of the situation led directly to her untimely death.

“All she was asking for was just the right to stay in the building she had been in for eight years,” Emery said at the protest. “People in this building smoke cigarettes and second hand tobacco is a dangerous carcinogen and kills people. Second hand marijuana smoke is of no harm to anyone and any bit of research would have proved that to the Anavets management. But they persisted in a very cruel and vindictive pogrom against Marilyn, such that I believe it gave her a lot of stress and contributed to her early demise.”

“There shouldn’t have been an issue about her using medical marijuana,” MP Libby Davies said. “The government had given her the permit and [Anavets] shouldn’t have tried to evict her on that basis. The system completely failed her, and unfortunately she’s not alone.”

In a similar case of abuse reported yesterday, an Okanagan care home resident was confined to his bed against his will after his wheelchair was confiscated for a week – all because he smokes medical marijuana to relieve his Multiple Sclerosis.

Davies said Marilyn’s situation is indicative of a larger failure of government to provide real open access to medical marijuana.

A crowd of protestors gathers outside the Anavets Senior Citizens Housing Society building.A crowd of protestors gathers outside the Anavets Senior Citizens Housing Society building.“It’s never been a system that served medical marijuana users well…but I think there’s very strong public support in Canada for the program and people want to see it work properly. If you’re sick and you need medical marijuana why should you have to fight the government? You have to fight tooth and nail through the bureaucracy to make this program work for you, and Marilyn was an example of that.”

“I would like no one to have to go through this again,” Marilyn’s sister Moira said. “I’d like the government to pull up socks and stop crusading against marijuana as a painkiller for whatever medical reason. Don’t make them take something that makes them sick, like opiates do with a lot of people. Don’t be political over this, be humane.”

Protest organizer Jacob Hunter of told CC the gathering was intended to memorialize Marilyn, “but also to help bring attention to the struggle of medical marijuana users and to make sure that residents like Marilyn are protected from eviction in the future.”

Other activists, medical marijuana users, and friends of Marilyn attending the protest hoped her situation would shine a light on an issue rarely addressed by the mainstream media or politicians.

“People who are in pain need to be respected and I didn’t see that happening here,” Ian Gregson of told CC at the protest. Though Gregson is not a medical marijuana user, he says he respects its use as a medicine. “I know marijuana helps people; it’s part of the solution.”

Protestors waved signs and passed out information pamphlets about Marilyn and her struggle.Protestors waved signs and passed out information pamphlets about Marilyn and her struggle.“People need to be comfortable in their homes to use medicine,” said Craig, a medical marijuana user who came to remember Marilyn. “Your home is your sanctuary, the place you need to be safe and your place to heal, and if you don’t have that place you can’t get better.”

Sister Elizabeth Kelliher, Chairperson of the Vancouver Downtown Eastside Residents Association board, was at the meeting wearing a sign around her neck that read “Tenants have Rights to Standards of Maintenance By-Laws.”

“Why should anyone try to evict a person because they are taking a medication that the administration doesn’t seem to like,” she asked. “I believe that every one of us has a responsibility to speak up when anyone is treated unjustly, because of the need for everyone, and the right of everyone, to live with peace and dignity.”

“In some ways I hope what happened to Marilyn serves as a warning,” said Davies, “and helps people understand that we have to be ever-vigilant to make sure our health care system is accessible to people.”

Moira O’Neill also hopes her sister’s death was not in vain.

“She wanted something to change,” Moira said, “That’s why she went to the public. She was a very caring person, and she didn’t want anyone else to have to suffer that way.”



  1. Anonymous on

    I love you….


    What’s wrong with just sitting around getting stoned after putting 10 hrs. in at work..Let’s talk about our great leaders,are great mines at work for the best of the people.CAPITALISM another word for ROCKEFELLA,HEARST,DUPONT.JP MORGAN ETC.,These are the real crimals hiding behind the American flag..WHAT THEY SAY GOES…They have all the money and all the power..They are the GOD on this earth..IF your not a CONSUMER SLAVE,YOUR A CRIMINAL..FIRST there’s no more money to be in the US,so they’ll just make up some bullshit like NAFTA,and Export are working base to another country with cheap labor,cut out the unions,and increase there profits.2nd where does it say or written,that we the people need to hire private army’s (S.O.F.)TO DO ARE DIRTY WORK..DO WE NOT HAVE THE BIGGEST MILITARY/ARMS DEALERS IN THE WORLD…MORE TO PONDER WHEN I’m STONED..PEACE AND POT….

  3. Anonymous on

    She’s DEAD.Over. Done.
    Sure “she” had health problems, BUT,….being a self-imposed poster child for marijuana usage is pathetic!

  4. Anonymous on

    You’re pretty “brave” for an ignoramus with a drug problem.

  5. Anonymous on

    It seems that not to many people posting comments here care about this womens death! I for one do! How many need to die over a harmless plant! One is far to many!!

  6. Anonymous on

    Loser, Your or you are can both be used. They are the same thing and quite accepted in grammer. So, perhaps you should take few grammer lessons youself before hitting the send button. You are the loser you hate filled child.

  7. Anonymous on

    Agreed.Adults need to have an adult’s level of interaction.This makes dopers look really stupid.

  8. Anonymous on

    Dave’s not here.

  9. Anonymous on

    They don’t have anything to live for ,either.

  10. Dave on

    If you’re commenting on my post, then you see only what you want to see. It’s no wonder you’re making those comments.

    I was referring to Dr. James DeGarlio from Cateshred, Ontario as the “SYSTEMS ASSHOLE’S SPOKEPERSON”!

    Hey, but if you folks want to be the “SYSTEMS ASSHOLE’S SPOKESPEOPLE” then go right ahead we’ve got a big room up here for all you assholes. Spew all you want…

    Furthermore, if you’re comments are about Marilyn’s supporters, notice how they’re not hiding behind Anonymous. They’re certainly not lurking in the shadows, like you, waiting for an opportunity to hurt someone!

  11. Anonymous on

    yeah there’s no doubting a weak argument with troopers like those in the photos their a joke

  12. Anonymous on

    Yell B-I-N-G-O!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. Pot makes NOTHING happen! on

    Loser, it is
    “your” spoon, not “you are ” spoon.
    You don’t reflect a civilized,EDUCATED, human being capable of engaging or maintaining a conversation, even on a measly message board.

    She should have laid down in front of a train or something.ANYTHING for publicity.
    You should, too.

  14. Dave on


    You’d think they’d send a more compassionate spokesperson? I wonder if his local media will take him to task on his uncaring comments? And he’s supposed to be the educated one amongst them? Why do they hate us so much?

  15. museummouse on

    Bottom Line: Don’t use pot smokers to gain sympathy for legalising the drug.

    For a Doctor you have either been out of the medical educational advances that have taken place or are a sock puppet for the pharmacutical companies and addicted to your stipends for prescribing medications and ordering tests.
    Legitimate medical users are pot smokers,thats true,some of us use vaporized cannabis and still some of us consume baked cannabis goods, but the fact, and it is fact “Doctor”,is that we are LEGITIMATE USERS!

  16. Anonymous on

    please explain what the fuck you are talking about….
    take the crack off you’re spoon and read the article over you fucking goof…

  17. Dr. James DeGarlio,Cateshred,Ontario on

    Bottom Line: Don’t use pot smokers to gain sympathy for legalising the drug.

    Marilyn Holsten was pathetic!
    Why have “Hemp is Good” supporters who look like crisy hippies?
    This is an act of displaced desperation!
    As long as people twist the reality of things with the constant wink-wink of “we’re still smoking!!”, the Cause for Marijuana Legalisation or Smokers’ Rights or anything else will always be a boring joke.

  18. Jay Dell on

    It is a great thing for the community to be vocal and as well as visual in the news.The more news of support of this kind will win the hearts of the viewers and perhaps bring a end to the war on cannabis users.

  19. Anonymous on

    this just goes to show how the weed culture is really a loving and caring culture
    The government wants to believe we’re just a bunch of idiots who wanna sit around and get stoned how can they think that? Activists get together for a dead patient how can they think we’re bad people?

  20. Jo Ann Euler on

    The continued Prohibition of Marijuana has contributed to this lady’s death. This prohibition has caused paranoia in people who have not taken the time to research marijuana and its effects and/or health benefits (on the user and on society), as compared to ‘government allowed’ cigarettes and alcohol. The paranoia and intolerance of the other tenants and the landlord that caused them to make such a grievous mistake is directly the result of the misrepresentation of marijuana caused by its prohibition. This is another very very sad example that has demonstrated why the Prohibition of Marijuana needs to be ended.

  21. Greggers in Toronto on

    I agree with Dave’scomments RE: System. FUCK THE FUCKING SYSTEM. There are many, many valid reasons for eviction, but quietly smoking pot to alleviate suffering is not among them.


  22. Dave on

    I usually try to be civil on these public forums, but…


    I’m a landlord, I’ll evict a pot smell complainer before evicting a pot smoker. The complainer is never satisfied. The pot smoker is satisfied, quiet and pays rent on time. I’m glad I don’t operate under THEIR FUCKED UP SYSTEM. FUCK

    Maybe I taking this too much to heart, but FUCK, FUCKING FUCKERS!