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Party Has High Hopes


420 Staff
A user of medicinal marijuana in Regina has joined the race for a seat in Saskatchewan's legislature to push for a greener society -- and he doesn't mean the environment.

Tom Shapiro, 51, has let his name stand as Saskatchewan Marijuana Party candidate for the riding of Regina Coronation Park.

"We're hoping to make people more aware that marijuana is not the dangerous drug that they say it is," Shapiro said on Tuesday.

"It doesn't hurt people.

"There is a lot of wellness that can be had by a lot of people."

Shapiro was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 1989.

As a result, he was forced to take many different medications to treat the illness.

"I would wake up in the morning and dry-heave, because there was nothing in there," he said.

"And I couldn't take my medication because I wouldn't have been able to keep it down. And if I couldn't take my medication, then I would lose this battle."

In 1998, Shapiro learned that marijuana could help ease his symptoms, particularly his nausea.

As a medicinal marijuana user registered with Health Canada, Shapiro is licensed to grow his own marijuana.

Shapiro made the news when, in early 2006, his licence expired before he had completed the renewal process.

He was arrested and police seized his plants and all of his equipment.

Charges were dropped, and his equipment was returned.

The incident turned Shapiro into a public figure in support of marijuana reform.

Shapiro is one of five candidates running under the Saskatchewan Marijuana Party banner in the upcoming provincial election -- and he is the only candidate for the party in Regina.

"I decided to speak out for ( the Saskatchewan Marijuana Party ) because they did help me out quite a bit when I was trying to get my equipment back," Shapiro said.

The Saskatchewan Marijuana Party was founded in 2006 as a single-issue protest party whose aim is to advocate against, and spark debate about, marijuana prohibition, an issue that party leader Nathan Holowaty said has been ignored since the federal decriminalization bill brought forth by the governing Liberals was rejected by parliament.

"We want to run candidates to help bring this issue to the forefront of every election until something is done," Holowaty said from Saskatoon.

"We feel the main political parties aren't really addressing this issue."

Although Holowaty is not running to win, he said he still expects the party to get quite a few votes.

"A lot of people are disillusioned with the political process. The last provincial election the voter turnout was around 60 per cent," Holowaty said.

"That means there are a lot of people not voting and a lot of them may consider voting if they feel there is a party that represents them.

"None of the other parties are talking about the things we are talking about."

Besides marijuana reform, Shapiro said he is also concerned with the state of health care in the province.

"I've been through quite a bit of medical care, I've been to the hospital many times, so I am aware of the situation about hospital waits and the like," he said.

If the government quit jailing people for using a drug that party members say is less harmful than alcohol, a legal substance, Shapiro said the money saved by the justice system could help alleviate some of the issues plaguing the health-care system.

The NDP is the only other provincial party that officially supports decriminalization of marijuana.

At the 2006 Saskatchewan NDP convention in Saskatoon, members passed a resolution calling for "a non-punitive approach to cannabis law."

Source: Regina Leader-Post (CN SN)
Copyright: 2007 The Leader-Post Ltd.
Contact: letters@leaderpost.canwest.com
Website: canada.com
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