R. Jeanette Martin
How many medpot users like Matt Mernagh stuck in jail without their pain reliever?
NOW readers know Matt Mernagh as that indomitable spirit behind the megaphone at medpot rallies in Yonge-Dundas Square. Bright lights, big city. That's Mernagh.
He's been a tireless and unabashed promoter of the virtues and healing powers of the weed, a weirdly wonderful foot soldier for the rights of sick people in this country who just want to be able to grow their own medicine.
He's been pointed about the hell Health Canada has put medpot users through, including as a contributor to these pages, pissing off federal bureaucrats and, unfortunately, attracting the unwanted attention of law enforcement officials. Who are the paranoid ones here?
On Saturday August 16, Mernagh was arrested, along with a roommate, and charged with possession of marijuana, possession for the purposes of trafficking and production of marijuana.
According to his lawyer, Paul Lewin, police received a call from an anonymous tipster about pot plants growing on the balcony of a Wellesley Street high-rise.
After obtaining a search warrant, police discovered a small grow op in a closet. The cops walked out with 37 plants in all.
The law should be on Mernagh's side. A slew of court rulings dating back to 2000 have essentially voided pot possession laws in this country and made possession for medical use legal. But the Crown is asking a steep price of for his release on bail ($20,000), in addition to requesting all kinds of conditions in return for his release, including a curfew.
The legal snafu for Mernagh is complicated by the fact he doesn't actually have a licence from Health Canada to use pot for medicinal purposes or to grow his own for medicine. The feds aren't exactly giving them away. Few doctors are willing to write a prescription.
The bush the government's pushing doesn't do the trick. It isn't cheap either. Same old story for Mernagh and the thousands of others medpot patients left, like him, twisting in the wind.
Mernagh's up for the good fight, Lewin says, but he faces an uncertain future. He was already out on bail on another pot production charge laid by cops in his former St. Catharines stomping ground when he was arrested at his new T.O. digs. In the eyes of law enforcement, Mernagh's a criminal more than crusader.
As of yesterday afternoon (Wednesday August 27), Mernagh was anxiously awaiting his fate behind bars at the Don Jail.
It's not necessarily the murderers and rapists, no offence intended, he's now surrounded by that has Mernagh freaked.
Lewin says he's more concerned about not having the special green he needs (no, the Don stuff won't do) to keep the pain of his fibromyalgia and scoliosis at bay.
It was eight years ago last month that the Ontario Court of Appeal granted sick people the right to possess and smoke pot for medical purposes.
Someone, please get us out of this mind-bending maze.
The legal twists that have plagued access to medical pot for licensed users
July 2000 The Court of Appeal grants epileptic Terry Parker the right to possess pot for medical purposes and gives the feds one year to come up with a medpot program.
July 2001 One day before the court's deadline expires, the feds enact the Medical Marihuana Access Regulations (MMAR). MMAR limits designated producers to one customer.
January 2003 The Superior Court of Ontario declares the regs in contravention of the Charter right to liberty and security of the person. The government appeals.
July 2003 Health Canada allows access to medpot and seeds through Prairie Plant Systems, the government's authorized producer.
October 2003 The Ontario Court of Appeal declares various sections of MMAR invalid.
December 2003 The feds repeal several MMAR provisions but re-enact the section restricting licensed producers to one customer.
January 2008 The Federal Court of Canada strikes down, once again, the offending provision.