Calling it the Freedom Tour, a group of more than 20 Islanders gathered in Charlottetown recently to call for the legalization of marijuana.
Many were interested in using the drug for relief of medical conditions, a process that is permitted in Canada provided the user complies with a daunting application and usage protocol, the meeting was told.
Trevor Leclerc, candidate for the leadership of the NDP on P.E.I., is HIV-positive and takes pharmaceutical, prescribed drugs to stave off AIDS.
“The medicines that keep the virus in check take quite a toll on my system,” said Leclerc. “I use medical marijuana to stimulate my appetite. Frankly, it’s the only thing that does.”
He carries a big pink licence and buys from Health Canada at $10 per gram.
“The possibility of people abusing their licences is really a misguided fear,” said Leclerc. “That comes from people not really understanding that it is not an addictive drug. It has a long history that goes back thousands of years in the pharmacopoeia.”
He attended the Charlottetown meeting to lend his endorsement to the creation of a support group for people wanting to use medical marijuana.
“It is, strangely, a very lonely thing to have this need and this requirement,” said Leclerc. “Sometimes it can be very awkward to try to deal with it, obtain a steady supply through Health Canada. It can be hard just to find a sympathetic ear, someone to talk to. It’s not an easy program to get on to.”
He began trying to get his licence about five years ago but it took two years before he got one in hand.
“There is a great misunderstanding about people who are on medical marijuana, that there is a perhaps, a seedy underside to that, and there really isn’t,” said Leclerc. “We would rather be taking anything else, quite honestly, but when it’s the only thing that can help you eat or gain weight, it’s what you have to rely on.”
The meeting was thrown together at the last minute, said organizer Kat Murphy, herself a user of medical marijuana for her Crohn’s and other inflammatory diseases. She heard about Neil Magnuson’s tour and invited him over to the Island. Magnuson is a British Columbia filmmaker and user of medical marijuana.
“It’s about the dangers and costs when you try to prohibit substances,” said Magnuson of his Freedom Tour across Canada. “We have been lied to for a long time by people that have a lot of money and want to protect their interest. We don’t have a prohibition on cannabis because it is some dangerous substance that makes you violently insane, causes you to be addicted and quit your job and sit around and get stoned and stupid all the time.”
Unlike some pharmaceutical, prescribed drugs, the meeting heard.
Canadian adults have the freedom to make their own choices, said Magnuson.
“Freedom is the right to do or not do whatever you want to do unless you are bothering somebody else,” said Magnuson.
That is a legal definition in Canada, he said.
“The role of government is to protect that freedom,” he said. “That is what our forefathers fought and put their lives on the line for, so we wouldn’t have a dictator or tyrant.”
Now government is lobbied by corporations with vested interests, like drug companies, for example, that don’t have our best interests in mind but rather focus on profits, Magnuson said.
Pretty well every kid uses drugs, even hard drugs in their teen years, but only those with tragedy in their lives, multiple traumas or conjunctive traumas, go on to abuse the drugs, said Magnuson.
They didn’t slide into hard drug use by starting off on marijuana, they tried different drugs and found only the hard drugs gave them relief from their mental and emotional trauma, he said.
“The hard stuff gives them serious relief from emotional and physical pain that they are suffering. We shouldn’t be punishing these people,” he said. “We should be very compassionate about them.
“There are no good or bad drugs in the world. There is just good and bad relationships with drugs. If you are having your leg amputated, you probably want some heroin. You don’t want to use it for every day killing your doldrums because it’s addictive.”
When government prohibits drugs, more people try it, said Magnuson.
“Freedom is so important to people,” he said. “It’s at the root of what our instincts are all about. Prohibiting drugs increases the demand. It guarantees a black market. The more you try to enforce your way out of that the more dangerous it gets because you don’t stop the demand and you don’t stop the supply. Prohibiting drugs is not only a violation of your natural right to possess what ever it is you want, but it makes things way worse.”
Magnuson wants drugs to become legal with the guidance of regulations. There can be taxes and age restrictions and advertising restrictions. There is no good reason to legalize drugs like crystal meth or the like, he added.
“Most people want nothing to do with it,” said Magnuson. “If you are in need of heroin because you’ve found that’s what kills the pain in your heart from whatever happened to you, then you should have a health-care professional helping you get what you want, get what you need in a way that makes sense for you.”