Harrietsfield father who sells marijuana to people in pain doesn't think
he's doing anything wrong. The police don't agree.

John Cook, a Harrietsfield father of two, has started a club. The members
don't pay a fee, but must supply a doctor's note. Most don't like to come
to his house, so Cook arranges to meet them.

He has brochures at a few local businesses and hospitals advertising his
e-mail and cellphone number. He's even written to the federal Health and
Justice departments telling them what he's doing. Which could be dangerous,
because what he's doing is illegal.

"I'm trying to be as open as I can," says Cook. "We're trying to keep
everything above board; we're not trying to hide anything, but there are a
lot of people who are still very paranoid and scared of the police, so when
you see me out, I'm usually by myself."

Cook's Compassion Club sells marijuana _ at cost _ to people who say they
need it for medical reasons. It's the Halifax chapter of Cannab is Buyers
Club of Canada, one of about a dozen across Canada, and the only one east
of Quebec.

He says he has 25 members, most suffering from multiple sclerosis, AIDS,
HIV or work-related injuries.

He sells the marijuana for about $10 a gram, about the going rate on the
street. Members buy anywhere from 20 grams a week to three grams for a
month, depending on their condition. Only one customer goes to his house to
pick up his supply, the rest Cook meets at an arranged location.

He doesn't grow the marijuana himself, but says it is organically grown in
Nova Scotia. Cook says he doesn't make a penny from the sales; he's simply
performing a service for people in pain.

Cook says he checks into members as best he can to ensure they want the
drug for a medical reason, and that they're not undercover cops.

The club has rules; patients can't resell the marijuana and they must have
a letter from their doctor stating their disability or illness. Cook
contacts the doctor to confirm the diagnosis and ensure other treatments
failed.

"If they ask me (why I'm calling) I tell them," but most know what's he
doing and don't question it, he says.

He started the club to help patients who don't get relief from traditional
painkillers but haven't yet received government exemptions.

Last summer, Health Canada made it legal for people suffering from the same
illnesses Cook's customers have to grow or possess marijuana. But his
customers don't have the exemption, which makes what he's doing illegal.

Halifax Regional Police say if they can prove Cook is selling marijuana,
he'll be charged.

"We will shut it down if it's not legal; it's as simple as that," says
police spokeswoman Judy Pal.

Police know Cook wanted to set up a store to sell marijuana. "If we have
information someone is selling illegal substances, we would take action as
we do with other people that sell marijuana," Pal said. "Whether they're
set up as a storefront or not, they would be charged with possession for
the purpose of distribution."

Cook says he still plans to set up a store to sell hemp products _ which
are legal _ as well as pot.

He knows he's putting himself on the line, and his wife isn't happy about
it, but Cook says he's frustrated by the red tape.

He says patients prescribed antibiotics can get them at the pharmacy, and
it should be just as easy for them to get marijuana.

"My suggestion would be to legalize it and let recreational users purchase
from these regulated clubs, and they would subsidize the medical users and
it would be taxed."

Cook is unable to work and smokes marijuana regularly for back and neck
pain caused by a dislocated vertebrae. He says he is in chronic pain and
prescriptions from his doctor zapped his energy.

"I had no energy, I'd be on the couch sleeping all day," says the
stay-at-home father of a nine and four-year-old.

He says marijuana has dulled his pain without the damaging side effects of
prescription pills. He has applied for an exemption from the federal
government allowing him to smoke pot for medical reasons, but hasn't
received it yet.

Mike Patriquen of Middle Sackville has an exemption. He grows his own
marijuana and smokes two grams every day for nerve damage in his neck.

It took his doctor nine months of filling in forms to get that exemption,
but Patriquen said he wanted it because he was on such high doses of a
prescription painkiller.

"They prevented me from doing anything. It took me six weeks to wean off
them; it was dreadful."

Patriquen, who ran unsuccessfully for the Marijuana Party in Nova Scotia,
served 13 months in jail for growing a marijuana plant before he received
his medical exemption.

He's now running for the Marijuana Party in a federal byelection in
Newfoundland.


Pubdate: Sun, 07 Apr 2002
Source: Daily News, The (CN NS)
Copyright: 2002 The Daily News
Contact: letterstoeditor@hfxnews.southam.ca
Website: http://www.canada.com/halifax/dailynews/