TORONTO -- Denise Beaudoin doesn't look like a pot-smoking activist.
The quiet 56-year-old from Hull is more comfortable sewing needlepoint
than protesting against drug policy.

But Ms. Beaudoin was bold enough to accept a marijuana joint passed among a
dozen patients with chronic
diseases who demonstrated as she did on the steps of a courthouse in
downtown Toronto yesterday.

Ms. Beaudoin joined the protesters who say the new marijuana law makes it
more difficult than ever to get
medical pot.

"It makes me angry," said Ms. Beaudoin, who has lived with constant pain
since a collision with a drunk
driver in 1989 broke her legs, hip, pelvis and back. She used marijuana
instead of painkillers for three years,
until police raided her basement hydroponics lab last summer.

Since then, she has been trying to gain permission to use pot legally, but
the system is a bureaucratic
morass, she said. In the meantime, she's been forced to replace her
marijuana regimen with 46 prescriptions
for various pills that make her intestines crack and bleed.

"The process is so difficult," said her husband, Ray Turmel, 49, hefting a
five-centimetre-thick sheaf of court
documents and medical records accumulated during their fight to use
marijuana for medical reasons. "And
they're making the rules even harder."

Five of the protesters, including Ms. Beaudoin, are asking the courts to
compel Health Canada to grant them
permission to smoke the drug legally. Their cases were heard yesterday in
federal court on University
Avenue but were deferred to an Ottawa court next week.

It was just another delay for sufferers such as Barry Burkholder, 36, of
Sudbury. He's been fighting for two
years to smoke marijuana legally to treat hepatitis C. "They make the
process so hard that people are giving
up," Mr. Burkholder said.

These people scoff at suggestions the new laws will allow better access to
medical marijuana. The process
is already too elaborate, they say, requiring detailed submissions from
their doctors. Now most applicants
will also need letters from medical specialists and more paperwork.

"What's being released to the media isn't what these applicants are
experiencing," Stuart Chamney, 41, said.
His wife, Marylynne Chamney, 37, who has epilepsy, is among the applicants
taking the government to
court.

But Health Canada spokeswoman Roslyn Tremblay said the expanded
requirements are needed to define
medical necessity and ensure proper safeguards. "The whole intention was to
make sure the process was
more transparent."

It's only logical to include more medical specialists in the application
process, Ms. Tremblay said. "Would
they not be interested in knowing that their patient is using marijuana?"
she asked.

Dianne Bruce, 37, is worried about the new laws for a different reason: She
grows marijuana in her back
yard in Colborne, Ont. Her operation used to be legal, she said, because
her 40 customers had medical
permission.

But now medical users are not allowed to obtain marijuana from growers with
criminal records, and Ms.
Bruce has been convicted of drug offences.

"I'm not supposed to continue helping people," Ms. Bruce said. Despite the
difficulties, Ms. Beaudoin and
the other patients say they'll keep fighting.

"I don't go anywhere any more," Ms. Beaudoin said, "except doctors,
hospitals, tests. . . ."

". . . and courthouses," her husband said.


Newshawk: Carey Ker
Pubdate: July 31, 2001
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Website: http://www.globeandmail.ca/
Contact: letters@globeandmail.ca
Copyright: 2001, The Globe and Mail Company
Forum: http://forums.theglobeandmail.com/
Author: GRAEME SMITH