Source: the Calgary Herald
Contact: letters@theherald.southam.ca
Website: http://www.calgaryherald.com/
Pubdate: May 24, 1998
Author: Naomi Lakritz
LCCC

Ross Rebagliati kept his medal, but Grant Krieger fears losing his family.

Both men made the headlines because they smoked pot, but thatís where any similarity between them ends.

You see, Krieger is not one of the beautiful people. Rebagliati is. And the difference in the way theyíve been treated is not a pretty commentary on our social mores.

"When Ross won the Olympic gold medal in Japan, I realized we live in a double standard.Canadian officials said itís only a little bit of pot so give him his medal," Krieger said.

"If itís only a little bit of pot, why have I got charges against me?"

Why, indeed?

Itís because the Preeceville, Sask. man is no fair-haired boy on a snazzy snowboard. He couldnít climb onto a snowboard even if he wanted to. Grant Krieger has multiple sclerosis and he smokes pot to relieve the symptoms of the disease heís been battling for 20 years, a disease which so ravaged his quality of life that a few years ago, he tried to kill himself with an overdose of sleeping pills and Demerol.

"I couldnít breathe. I couldnít swallow and I shook so bad. I had to wear a damn diaper. So I took those pills and I really didnít want to wake up. When I woke up in the hospital I thought, ĎIím alive and I donít want to be.í"

He credits marijuana with making him mobile again. No more canes, crutches or wheelchair. His incontinence is under control and he can venture out without fear of embarrassment. Not long ago, this 43-year-old man who was once bedridden and yearning for death, enjoyed a picnic at Banff with his daughter and even climbed a small hill.

"Tell me my quality of life hasnít improved!" he says with relish.

He ran afoul of the law when he lit up a joint last June on the Calgary courthouse steps i support of another man who uses pot for medicinal purposes.

Kriegerís case is still before the courts but thereís another side to his story that has nothing to do with legalities. It has to do with hypocrisy and how willing we are to forgive the foibles, illicit as they may be, of the people we put on pedestals. We are not in the habit of putting the disabled on pedestals and we do not forgive them their disabilities.

So badly did we need Ross Rebagliati to be our hero at Nagano that we rushed to make things all right for him. No one rushes to make things right for the Grant Kriegers of this world.

Krieger doesnít care about partying hearty and getting high. He just wants to be able to get through his day. He doesnít even believe pot should be legalized except for carefully regulated medicinal purposes.

Meanwhile, the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada keeps a cautious distance from the controversy. Dr. Bill McIlroy, the societyís medical adviser, was unavailable for comment but his Toronto office has issued a statement saying there is no scientific basis for using marijuana to treat MS and no controlled studies have been done, although anecdotal reports indicate it may be useful in a few cases.

A nurse at the Foothills Hospital MS Clinic says doctors there wonít discuss it.

Krieger, who plans to move to Calgary soon, realizes heís fighting a lonely battle, but heís not about to throw in the towel.

"Cannabis is a drug I wonít let go of," he says. "Itís done more for me than any pharmaceutical." Itís also caused him more grief.

"They raided the house and charged my wife with possession. And my daughter went off the deep end over this. Sheís a law student and she canít live with me because she could get charged, too, if they raid us again. Theyíre busting up familiesóbut Ross got his medal."

Contact Naomi Lakritz at (403) 235-7134.


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