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Pubdate: Fri, 20 Sep 2002
Source: Guelph Mercury (CN ON)
Copyright: 2002 Guelph Mercury Newspapers Limited
Author: Scott Tracey
MEDICAL MARIJUANA RULES RILE CITY MAN
Bob LeDuc, who has had a long history of adverse reactions to prescription drugs, fears his exemption for using medicinal marijuana to control a number of serious ailments will not be renewed. GUELPH -- Bob LeDuc is hopping mad at federal Health Minister Anne McLellan.
The Guelph man, who uses marijuana to control a number of serious ailments, fears he will soon have to choose between breaking the law and becoming severely ill.
LeDuc, 52, suffers from crippling psoriasis, irritable bowel syndrome and temporal lobe epilepsy.
Three years ago he became one of the first two dozen Canadians granted an exemption by Health Canada, which allowed him to legally possess and use marijuana.
However his most recent exemption expired on Sept. 11, and he fears he will not be able to get another without agreeing to first try other medications.
LeDuc explained he has told the government he is unwilling to try alternative drugs, and therefore learned he does not meet the requirements for an exemption under the Marijuana Medical Access Regulations.
The man said he has a life-long history of adverse reactions to prescription drugs, and is "terrified" of trying new medications.
This is confirmed in a December 2000 letter from his family doctor, Jennifer Caspers, who at the time wrote that "despite ... a sincere and concerted effort on Mr. LeDuc's part, drug therapies have had to be terminated due to intolerable side effects resulting, on occasion, in emergency room assessment and intervention."
LeDuc recalled one medication he took to control his epilepsy. After three months, his body suddenly rejected the medicine and he became seriously ill.
Four years ago, and one year before receiving his exemption, LeDuc began using marijuana and could not believe the benefits.
Gone were the epileptic seizures, which racked his body 20 to 30 times daily, and the nausea and sleeplessness caused by irritable bowel syndrome.
LeDuc believes his psoriasis has all but cleared up because he is sleeping and eating well, so there is less strain on his nervous system. "Before I discovered marijuana I was basically disabled," he said. "For the past four years I've been totally functional.
"This is like a miracle drug for me. I don't know why the government isn't investigating this like penicillin."
LeDuc is self-employed, operating a guitar studio from his home.
He said his medical history would make it impossible to hold down a regular job, and added until now he has been afraid to go public because he was concerned about the effect it would have on his business.
"If Health Canada does what they're trying to do to me, I won't be able to work anyway."
LeDuc was planning a trip to Toronto today to listen to evidence at a court challenge brought by Toronto lawyer and professor Alan Young, who is representing seven exempt people and a caregiver -- the Toronto Compassion Club --- in their efforts to have the complex regulations governing medical pot struck down.
Failing that, the group is willing to settle for access to the federal government's stash of marijuana grown in a Manitoba mine, under a $5.7-million contract for clinical trials.
LeDuc said he wants to attend the hearing "to hear firsthand how they can justify that I should risk my life instead of using marijuana."
Andrew Swift, a spokesman for Health Canada, said he could not comment specifically on LeDuc's case, but noted people are unlikely to receive an authorization to possess the drug without something from a specialist indicating all other treatments have failed.
"This is a system of last resort," he said, "which is why we do need that input from a specialist."
Currently there are 817 Canadians with federal approval to possess marijuana, and most of them have also been given permission to grow the drug for personal consumption, Swift said.