The resignation last week of two key doctors in the federal medical
marijuana program is not good news for local pot proponent Dennis Lillico.

Up until recently, Lillico was confident that he was safe growing small
amounts of marijuana for medicinal use. But he destroyed his plants this
weekend and does not know how he will deal with his illness.

"I don't have time to wait for all the red tape," said the 38-year-old
Trail man. "I am one jerk away from being a quadriplegic."

Lillico was diagnosed in May with a severe neurological condition
called familial myoclonus dystonia. He says smoking marijuana is the only
way he can manage his pain.

The nerve condition is a movement disorder which is characterized by
sudden, jerky, involuntary movements which are often lighten-ing-like and,
with Lillico, are accompanied with epileptic-like seizures.

"I was diagnosed at the UBC Department of Medicine in May," Lillico
said after having spent many years trying to find the right diagnosis.
"With the furiousness of the jerking that can't be controlled and my own
body weight I could easily snap my back," he said.

Dr. Sian Spacey, assistant professor of neurogenetics, movement
disorders, and general neurology at UBC department of , was unavailable for
comment at press time.

Lillico said the only treatment that works for the stress on his
muscles and nerves, as well as for the intense pain he suffers, is smoking
marijuana.

"This disorder is all about stress," he said. "Both high and low
emotions set off the distonia. If I cross the threshold all the limbs in my
body are set off."

Lillico insists that smoking marijuana helps his degenerative disorder
and he is fighting for the right to be allowed to grow and smoke his
medicine of choice. But he has come up against sharp resistance.

"My doctors and specialists are telling me they cannot prescribe
marijuana because they have labeled me a drug addict," he said. "They have
told me the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. have told them it is
against the ethics of doctors to prescribe narcotics to addicts."

But Lillico believes his past history shouldn't have any bearing on his
situation now.

"I did have a problem with alcohol. But I participated in a 12- step
program in 1989 and haven't used alcohol since. I also told my
doctors at one point that I had tried cocaine. I tried it three times many
years ago. I didn't like it and haven't used it since. Because of
that, I cannot apply for the right to use medicinal marijuana."

Lillico first tried marijuana three years ago when he was in so much
pain the doctors couldn't prescribe strong enough pain killers to help him.

I knew, as soon as I smoked for the first time, that my whole body
relaxed." Since then, Lillico has grown enough marijuana for his own
personal use and is now in the process of taking the matter before the B.C.
Human Rights Commission.

"This is a progressive disease. "It's only going to get worse. This
disease has everything to do with stress. With pot, I can, to some degree,
control how much I talk, how much I walk, and how much I eat."

Without the illegal drug, Lillico says he is unable to eat, or simply
forgets to because he is in too much pain.

"Once I've smoked, something in my stomach is activated and tells me
I'm hungry."

A tall, emaciated-looking man, Lillico said he is in a Catch-22. He
can't legally grow marijuana and can't get the medical system to prescribe it.

And with all the confusion and chaos surrounding the government's
medical marijuana program, Lillico says his time is running out.
Health minister Anne McLellan, who picked up the medical marijuana headache
from her predecessor, Allan Rock, has been criticized for her strong
skepticism about the premise of the program. And with the latest
resignation from two key doctors, the program seems to be on shaky ground.

The first doctor to resign Dr. Gregory Robinson, a Toronto doctor
living with AIDS resigned from the Stakeholder Advisory Committee last
week, saying there were inconsistencies in the access program and how
medicinal marijuana was to be distributed. He also called into question
McLellan's level of compassion.

Then, on Thursday of last week, the Globe and Mail reported that Cindy
Cripps-Prawak had left her job as director of the Office of Cannabis
Medical Access, two days after the department introduced a plan to
distribute medical marijuana through doctor's offices. | The interim plan
was introduced in response to an Ontario court ruling that patients had to
be given some legal means of obtaining the drug.

Lillico said giving the doctors control of distributing medical
marijuana was totally wrong.

"I do not believe doctors should be gatekeepers of this medicine...with all
the pressures the medical system is under...marijuana should be distributed
through compassion clubs and other volunteer organizations."

Dr. Robinson also did not believe doctors should be in the position to
distribute the drug. He said pharmacists and compassionate clubs were the
better way to go.

The Canadian Medical Association has also been highly critical of the
proposed distribution system, saying doctors are being forced to provide a
drug whose benefits have not been proven in clinical trials.

In response the government's plan to distribute medical pot through
doctors offices, the CMA has strongly advised doctors not to participate.

Local physician Ralph Behrens said as far as he was aware no local
doctorshad received word from the CMA about what they should be doing in
the medical marijuana maize.

"It would be good to actually have a clear position from the
government," he said. "As there are some conditions marijuana would help."

At the present time "no GP can supply or prescribe marijuana," Behrens
said. A patient "has to see a specialist who deals with their specific
disease."

About 500 people in Canada now qualify to use marijuana, but they have
been required to grow their own pot, designate someone to grow it for them,
or get it on the black market.

That problem led the Ontario Court of Justice to declare the law
unconstitutional and give the government six months to fix it.

With all the confusion at a national level, Lillico sees little relief
in sight for his pain.

"I'm afraid to grow more of my own pot because I cannot afford to go to
jail. I've been given a prescription for Valium. It's about twice what the
average individual is allowed to consume, but like the other drugs the
doctors prescribe, it means I can't use my mind."

According to the RCMP, the possession of marijuana, even for personal
use, is still a crime.

"It is considered a narcotic under the federal Control Drugs and
Substances Act," said Corp. Joe Stochmanski. "Unless someone has a medical
certificate, the RCMP will proceed with regulations." Because the
government hasn't yet changed the law, possessing even small amounts of
marijuana is a criminal offence.

Stochmanski is unaware of any medical marijuana exemptions in the area.
Lillico said he knew the penalty for growing the plant and doesn't have any
plans to grow more at this time.

"I don't want to get angry about my condition because that doesn't
help," he said. "I know if I am allowed to grow and use the only medicine
that does work for me I can be as independent as I can be. Otherwise, I
told my doctor who told me I should stop smoking, 'you had better get a
hospital bed ready for me.'"

People don't like to be wrong about things, Lillico said. "Heads of
states in Egypt used marijuana. It has been used to get people on a
different spiritual plane. Creative people have smoked it. In China, for
over 1,000 years people have used it as a medicine.

"Are we so blind to call these experienced individuals with great power
into question? All I ask is that people allow me the right to grow and
smoke the only medication that I know eases my pain. Adults should be
allowed to have that choice."


Source: Trail Daily Times (CN BC)
Front Page
Pubdate: July 22, 2003
Contact editor@trailtimes.ca
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Address: 1163 Cedar Ave. Trail, BC V1R 4B8
Fax: 250-368-8550
Copyright: 2003 Trail Daily Times
Author: Kate Skye