N.S. man starts club for people who need to buy marijuana for medical reasons

Sunday, April 07, 2002

HALIFAX (CP) - A Nova Scotia man has set up Atlantic Canada's first chapter of a national club for people who need to buy marijuana for medical reasons.

John Cook's Compassion Club, which has about 25 members in the Halifax area, is one of about a dozen groups in Canada that are part of the loosely knit Cannabis Buyers Club.

Cook, who regularly smokes marijuana for back and neck pain caused by a dislocated vertebrae, said he started the club to help patients who don't get relief from traditional pain killers and haven't yet received government exemptions.

Last summer, Ottawa unveiled new regulations allowing patients with chronic or terminal illnesses to apply to Health Canada for permission to use marijuana.

The regulations apply to patients who have less than a year to live; those suffering from AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, severe arthritis or epilepsy or other conditions, if recommended by two specialists.

A doctor must sign the application, which states the benefits of marijuana use outweighs the risks.

Cook, a father of two young children, said like his members, he has applied for an exemption from Health Canada but hasn't yet received it.

The club has a membership card but no fee and currently provides the organically grown drug at cost for members, Cook said.

Under club rules, members must have a letter from the treating physician stating the person's disability or illness and promise not to resell the marijuana.

Cook said he contacts the doctor to confirm the diagnosis and ensure other treatments have failed.

He has brochures at a few local businesses and hospitals advertising his e-mail and cell phone number. He's even written to the federal health and justice departments telling them what he's doing.

"I'm trying to be as open as I can," Cook said.

"We're trying to keep everything above board. We're not trying to hide anything, but there are a lot of people who are still very paranoid and scared of the police."

He sells the marijuana for about $10 a gram. Members buy anywhere from 20 grams a week to three grams for a month, depending on their condition. Only one customer goes to his house to pick up his supply, the rest Cook meets at an arranged location.

But not everyone is happy about the club.

Halifax regional police say they'll charge Cook if they can prove he's selling marijuana.

"We will shut it down if it's not legal, it's as simple as that," said police spokeswoman Judy Pal.

(Halifax Daily News)