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Trapped between sickness and the law

By admin | December 9, 2009

Goldstream News Gazette

Trapped between sickness and the law

Kevin Wilde and medical marijuana advocate Ted Smith stand outside Wilde’s sealed rental house in Langford.

Langford man busted for what he calls a medical marijuana grow-op

It can be tough growing a bit of personal pot in Langford.

In October, Kevin Wilde found himself facing criminal charges, having his rental house sealed by Langford’s building inspector and facing thousands in bills from the City, all for what he says were a few marijuana plants to control pain for his chronic kidney disease.

His attached garage held about 48 plants in various states of growth, Wilde said, for about five weeks before the West Shore RCMP came knocking. Now his landlord is facing about $5,000 in costs to bring the house back up to code and for RCMP officer and Langford municipal staff time.

Wilde didn’t have the get-out-of-jail free card – Health Canada’s permission to grow or possess marijuana for medical purposes. The Cannabis Buyers Clubs of Canada (CBCC) is backing Wilde’s cause and says this case highlights contradictions of law and medical policies.

Although it will cover only part of the bills, proceeds from the International Hempology 101 Society annual art auction on Nov. 15 went to Wilde, about $1,500. The hempology society is a sister group with the CBCC.

“There are 995,000 people in Canada like Kevin without legal protection because doctors won’t sign the form,” said Ted Smith, a Victoria-based advocate for the legalization of pot and founder of the CBCC. “There are a lot of misconceptions on how accessible the Health Canada (medical marijuana) program is.”

An October 2007 letter from his doctor confirmed Wilde, 36, has chronic kidney disease and frequent kidney stones, and was prescribed synthetic THC and narcotics to control the pain.

These days he is on multiple prescription medications for pain and nausea control, but his doctor won’t sign off on the medical marijuana program, Wilde said. “The illness has gotten worse and I couldn’t work as much,” said Wilde, a ticketed pipe fitter and plumber. “(Marijuana) can replace a lot of pills, or at least lower the dosage.”

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. doesn’t ban doctors from prescribing medical marijuana, but does recommend extreme caution due to possible legal liability due to unforeseen side effects. The college argues the lack of credible scientific information on smoking marijuana “makes it questionable, if not dangerous,” for doctors to prescribe medical marijuana.

Smith said it’s incumbent on Health Canada to conduct research on cannabis to provide health professionals a baseline for risks and benefits, a task the federal agency refuses to do. Health Canada, while supplying marijuana and issuing people licenses to grow and possess certain amounts of marijuana, considers it an illegal drug and doesn’t endorse its use.

“The science isn’t there and Health Canada is erecting barriers that are unnecessary,” Smith said. “They are creating catch-22s that put people like Kevin out in the cold.”

On Langford’s end, senior bylaw officer Lorne Fletcher said without the exemption from Health Canada, the City has no option but to enforce its nuisance bylaw.

Fletcher said the bylaw is in place to discourage drug labs and to protect the public from safety issues associated with grow-ops in houses. At least three Langford residents have come forward with Heath Canada licenses for small medical grows, he said.

“People can make all the claims they want about growing medical marijuana,” Fletcher said. “If the proof is there we will acknowledge that.”

Wilde is scheduled to go to court in January to face criminal charges for growing a controlled substance. Smith said its likely Wilde will have a Health Canada marijuana medical access card by then.

The CBCC has sold marijuana products to about 3,000 members for about 14 years, all who require proof from a doctor of a serious disability or disease.

“We will get a doctor to sign his form. We will go ‘doctor shopping’ on his behalf,” Smith said. “The futility in this is that after everything the police did, (Wilde) will be able to grow more than what he was caught with.”

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