Volume 91, Issue 11

Tuesday, September 16, 1997



Smokin' Debate: Woman pushes legalization

By Sara Marett
Gazette Staff

Local attempts to see current marijuana laws go up in flames were continued yesterday as a London woman deliberately smoked a marijuana joint in front of the London Police Department in hopes to bring her case before the courts.

Thirty-six-year-old Lynn Harichy suffers from multiple sclerosis and relies on marijuana to ease severe pain from her hands and feet. Yesterday morning she was charged with possession of narcotics, just as she hoped.

"The police were actually very nice to me, I'm glad they were there to help, not hurt me," Harichy said, adding she can now take her case to the courts on Oct.14.

Sergeant Jack Churney of the London Police Department described Harichy's actions as a staged media event as there were many people and members of the media assembled to witness the outcome of her demonstration.

Harichy said she decided to purposely get arrested in order for the government to realize the existing laws surrounding marijuana use must be changed for people suffering from illness. She said she was left with no other option after writing to all government members and not getting anywhere with her pursuit.

She said other prescribed medicines for her illness have too many side effects and because she can not control the amount she must take, she ends up suffering more. "With marijuana I can control the amount I take, usually a couple of joints a day," she said.

She is not concerned with the effect smoking marijuana may have on her children, aged 17 and 11. She said her children know it is for medical reasons and she keeps it away from them by smoking outside.

"I have to rely on friends to supply the marijuana for me, I will not buy it from the black market," she said, adding if the drug was legal, it would make it much easier to obtain.

Londoner Chris Clay attempted to change the laws surrounding marijuana use during a summer court appearance involving charges of possession, trafficking and cultivating cannabis. Clay lost his case, but felt he brought serious issues to the attention of politicians.

"By the end of the case, the judge agreed with many of the points we made surrounding the medicinal purposes of marijuana," Clay said. His case will now go before the Ontario Court of Appeal and eventually the Supreme Court of Canada, he said.

"I think we will have a good chance with the appeal. Who can refuse a terminally ill person their medicine?"

Clay's lawyer Alan Young, a law professor at Osgoode Hall in Toronto, will also represent Harichy. He is optimistic Harichy's case will result in a constitutional exemption of the existing marijuana laws.

"Our defence will be one of necessity in order to create an exemption to the law," he said, adding he will prove it is a violation of someone's constitutional rights to be denied access to a needed drug.

Hillary Black is the founder and director of Vancouver's Compassion Club, which sells marijuana to people for medicinal reasons. She said more research needs to be done to prove the medicinal properties of the drug.

Tom Macfarlane, director of student health services at Western, said he is not aware of any research proving marijuana has medical benefits.

To Contact The News Department: gaznews@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997