Newshawk: Dave Haans
Source: The Toronto Star
Pubdate: Thursday 07 Aug 1998
Author: Wendy Darroch, Staff Reporter

The Charter rights of an AIDS sufferer who wants to smoke marijuana for medicinal purposes are not being violated, a prosecutor said yesterday.

There are other legal drugs that produce the same results as marijuana, but James Wakeford doesn't like them, Christopher Amerasinghe said.

Wakeford, who developed full-blown AIDS in 1993, has applied for an exemption to the ban on marijuana because he says it is the only thing that eases the terrible nausea caused by the medicine he takes to control his illness. He says the illegal drug also stimulates his appetite.

Wakeford had testified that far from controlling his chronic nausea, his one dose of a legal anti-nausea  drug, Marinol, made it even worse for about seven hours.

"He took one dose one day," Amerasinghe said of Wakeford's experience with Marinol, which contains synthetic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

Wakeford is arguing that the law violates his Charter rights to life, liberty and security, and also discriminates against him on the basis of his disability.

Not only should he be allowed to smoke pot, he says, but the government should make sure there is a clean, safe supply of it for medicinal purposes.

During the past few months, lawyers have gathered evidence and held about 10 days of hearings. Yesterday, they made their final arguments.

Mr. Justice Harry Laforme of the Ontario Court, general division, reserved judgment, but said he'll try to hand down his decision "sooner rather than later."

Wakeford's lawyer, Professor Alan Young, has argued that if the 53-year-old Wakeford does not have marijuana, his life is at risk because he can't keep medication or food down.

Wakeford said he usually smokes two cigarettes each evening to ease his nausea and stimulate his appetite.

His liberty is at risk because he has to purchase the drug illegally and could face imprisonment, Young said.

For Canada to provide quality-controlled marijuana would be akin to a person in a wheelchair requiring the Government of Canada to build a ramp every time they encounter a building with a barrier, Amerasinghe argued. The law is applied to everyone, he said, so Wakeford's claim of discrimination is not true.

Young said in his rebuttal yesterday that Amerasinghe was trivializing the issue.

"The point is a dying man is seeking lawful authority to use the medicine of his choice."

With files from Canadian Press


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