Club's Pot Too Pricey, Critics Say
Source: Montreal Gazette (CN QU)
Author: Sidhartha Banerjee, The Gazette
Published: Friday, December 20, 2002
Copyright: 2002 The Gazette, a division of Southam Inc.
Contact: [email protected]
Internet sales not seen as panacea Muscular dystrophy patient says many who need drug are on welfare, fixed incomes to enrich dope peddlers, not help sufferers.
Claude Messier applauded the new Web site launched by the Marijuana Party of Canada yesterday to sell pot over the Internet. But, he admitted, it will do little to answer the problem of accessibility for those in need of medicinal marijuana.
Messier, 36, is a muscular dystrophy patient who lives in constant pain. He smokes on average about 3 grams of pot a day - roughly $800 worth a month.
While Messier, who was a defence witness at the drug-trafficking trial of Marc St-Maurice and Alexandre Néron, was happy for the two, he said it's still up to the government to come up with a feasible plan to distribute marijuana.
"The Web site is not a bad idea, but for me it would just be too expensive," Messier said in an interview at the St. Charles Borromée long-term care facility on René-Levesque Blvd., where he lives. "You also have to remember most people who need medicinal marijuana are on welfare and have fixed incomes and can't afford those prices."
It means Messier, who has been granted an exemption under Article 56, has to find other ways of getting his marijuana - and usually, that means illegally.
Messier says he's lucky. Thanks to the royalties from a published book and talks he gives in public, he's able to meet some of the costs.
But most who need medicinal marijuana simply can't afford it and the Web site isn't going to change that, said Jim Wakeford, the first person in Canada granted permission to smoke pot for medicinal purposes.
"If they can't afford to buy the marijuana, they can't afford to be on the Web," Wakeford told The Gazette yesterday in a telephone interview from British Columbia. "It's just more money for the pot peddlers."
Wakeford, 58, who has full-blown AIDS, is due in court early next year on charges of marijuana trafficking. It is alleged that he gave marijuana away to severely ill patients.
He called yesterday's court decision in Montreal a bitter irony, given the fact he is standing trial for giving marijuana away, not selling it.
Wakeford admits he's not a great fan of Compassion Clubs because, he says, they charge just as much as on the street.
"The people who use them are being used," Wakeford said. "I personally can't afford those clubs and they are not an option for me or most people I know."
There have been many solutions, but few answers. Messier said he'd like to see pot seized by police handed over to the sick.
And William Robert Palmer, an AIDS patient from Toronto who also testified for the defence, said he'd like to see a network of legal clubs across the country.
"I'm pleased with the decision, but the question is: 'Are you going to get arrested as soon as they open up (today) because they still don't have a license to sell?' " said Palmer.
Said Wakeford: "The government has granted us exemptions and then turned us loose on the black market. We have no alternative - it's either that or live in anguish and starve."
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