TORONTO - The federal government should distribute a safe supply of
marijuana to sick people who are exempt from prosecution under Canada's
drug laws, an Ontario appeal court heard yesterday.

"You can't expect sick people to become indoor farmers," said Alan
Young, lawyer for Jim Wakeford, a Toronto man with AIDS who, in 1999,
was granted an exemption to cultivate, possess and smoke marijuana.

Mr. Wakeford is appealing a May, 2000, decision by Mr. Justice Blenus
Wright, who ruled that the government does not have to give him a safe
supply of pot.

The 56-year-old, who says he only has two years to live, also wants the
court to overturn Judge Wright's ruling that his suppliers would not be
exempt from trafficking or possession laws.

"I'm tired of dealing with thieves and crooks and thugs and cops," Mr.
Wakeford said during a break.

"I'm paying $300 an ounce on the streets, if I can find it, and I don't
know what I'm smoking," said Mr. Wakeford, who calls his suppliers
"caregivers."

Mr. Young also told the three appeal court judges -- Justices John
Laskin, Marc Rosenberg and James MacPherson -- that his client has been
sending letters to Health Canada and the Department of Justice since
1997 requesting measures be taken to supply him with marijuana.

However, Mr. Wakeford has been a victim of "bureaucratic
neutralization," and has only received "unresponsive responses," said
Mr. Young, an Osgoode Hall law professor.

Because of this inaction, Mr. Wakeford wants the judges to order the
federal government to report back to the court on the progress they are
making in securing the source of marijuana, Mr. Young said.

In December, Health Canada awarded a Saskatoon-based company a contract
to grow medicinal marijuana in an abandoned Flin Flon, Man., mine.

But there is no guarantee on how soon a supply will be available and
the government has refused to give an undertaking that Mr. Wakeford
will be granted any of the marijuana, said Louis Sokolov, one of Mr.
Wakeford's lawyers.

"For all we know, it may be there only to supply the research program,"
he said.

Roslyn Levine, federal crown counsel, said the government does not have
an obligation to supply Mr. Wakeford with marijuana.

"It entails the government going into the business of drug production,"
she told the court.

Mr. Wakeford has not taken advantage of the right he was granted to
cultivate his own crop of marijuana, Ms. Levine said.

"He would rather put his money in certain areas, rather than assist
himself," she said.

Under the exemption, Mr. Wakeford is legally allowed to grow seven
marijuana plants and have 30 grams in his possession.

He became the second person, after Terry Parker, a Toronto man with a
severe form of epilepsy, to be granted the use of marijuana for medical
purposes.

Both men successfully argued Charter of Rights challenges that the
restrictions on the drug violated their rights to life and security.

Mr. Wakeford said marijuana eases intense nausea caused by the drugs
used to fight his immune deficiency.

Since Mr. Wakeford was granted the exemption, 170 other sick Canadians
have been given the same right.


Newshawk: creator@mapinc.org
Source: National Post (Canada)
Pubdate: Sat, 03 Mar 2001
Author: Desmond Brown