Newshawk: Dave Haans ( )
Source: The Toronto Star
Pubdate: Thursday, August 6, 1998
Author: Wendy Darroch Toronto Star Staff Reporter

The Canadian government discriminates against AIDS patients by denying them easy, legal access to marijuana, a court has been told.

James Wakeford, 53, who was diagnosed with HIV in 1989 and had full-blown AIDS by 1993, is seeking an order exempting him from arrest on marijuana charges.

He battled chronic fatigue, extreme diarrhea, weight loss, insomnia, night sweats, loss of appetite, herpes and dehydration with massive amounts of anti-viral medication.

But the medication left him with constant nausea and a loss of weight known as wasting, so he turned to marijuana, an Ontario Court, general division, judge was told yesterday. Wakeford found marijuana gave him an appetite and eased the nausea.

Alan Young, a professor at Osgoode Hall who is representing Wakeford, urged Mr. Justice Harry LaForme to grant an order exempting Wakeford and his caregivers from arrest and prosecution on marijuana charges.

He also asked that the federal government be ordered to immediately establish a program that would provide clean, inexpensive marijuana so people such as Wakeford, who is dying, won't have to go to the black market and possibly get contaminated pot.

He argued that his client, a co-founder of the Ontario Association of the Children's Mental Health Centres, was having his Charter rights violated.

Marijuana, like many other drugs, is a controlled drug. People who are ill can be prescribed controlled drugs, but marijuana is not one of them. This is discrimination, Young argued.

Although there is a way to get an exemption, Young said "the red tape is so massive it mummifies. You can't breathe through it."

Court was told it is theoretically possible to get access to medicinal marijuana through a Health Canada program. But the applicant must specify a legal, licensed manufacturer for the drug, and there isn't a manufacturer in the world that would satisfy Health Canada's criteria, Young said.

Crown lawyer Chris Amerasinghe said Wakeford's facts do not fit the legal test in order to get a constitutional exemption. The onus is on him to prove his life, liberty and security are at risk.

"Without marijuana will his life be in danger?" he asked.

Young said marijuana won't save, but ease, Wakeford's life. His liberty is at risk because he is subject to arrest and prosecution if he uses it illegally.

The case continues.


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