|Man takes Ottawa to court over medical marijuana.|
Pubdate: Wednesday, August 5, 1998
TORONTO (CP) -- A man who uses marijuana to control the side effects of his AIDS treatment takes on the federal government in federal court today.
Jim Wakeford says he wants safe, clean, affordable marijuana -- and he wants the government to get it for him.
"I want it without penalty of criminal record," said Wakeford, 53. "I want it provided by the government so that it's clean, free of contaminants. It's time to get the criminal element out of the medicine business."e;
He smokes up to two joints a day to control nausea and to stimulate his appetite.
Wakeford knows he's in for a real fight, but he's hopeful.
"I'm optimistic. The public is certainly supportive. In a Gallup poll a few months ago, 83 per cent of Canadians believed it should be available for medical use."
The cocktail of medicines Wakeford takes to control his AIDS have strengthened his immune system and decreased the virus levels in his body, his doctor, John Goodhew, said in February.
But before Wakeford started smoking pot he looked gaunt, lost weight and was depressed because of the nausea, Goodhew said.
The federal Health Department's top drug regulator says doctors can seek permission from Ottawa to provide controlled substances like marijuana to patients provided they show it has a legitimate medical use. So far no doctor has done so.
"It already is decriminalized," said Dan Michols of the therapeutic products directorate.
Even so, other cases before the courts have already argued a constitutional exemption from criminal law against marijuana possession for medicinal purposes.
Epileptic Terry Parker, of Toronto, who smokes pot to prevent seizures, won a landmark ruling in December that said parts of the Criminal Code's marijuana section are unconstitutional.
But Wakeford's case goes a step further, arguing that the Charter also obliges the federal government to supply the drug so sick people don't have to look for it on the streets.
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