Uruguay Legalizes Marijuana

CannabisIIIn a 16-13 vote today legislators in the South American country of Uruguay voted to legalize the production, sale and use marijuana. The vote is being hailed as historic as Uruguay is the first country to enact such a measure. The move has drawn the ire of the International Narcotics Control Board, but the government justifies its decision by saying that eliminating the black market for marijuana will end violence associated with the illegal drug trade.

Once the law is implemented in 120 days Uruguayans over the age of 18 will be able to purchase up to 1.4 ounces of marijuana a month from a licensed dispensary, or grow up to six plants a year in their home. If Uruguayans wish they can form a smoking club of between 15 and 45 members and grow up to 99 plants to cut down on the logistics of having a lot of small grow-ops. People who are visiting Uruguay from other countries will not be covered by the law to discourage so-called “pot tourism”.

Other countries in the region, and around the world, are expected to watch the experiment closely; and if Uruguay doesn’t descend into drug-crazed madness and debauchery many could well follow suit and end their own “War On Drugs” as it pertains to marijuana.

Here’s the CBC report.

More Marijuana News

CannabisIIFollowing the huge boner Health Canada pulled last week when they sent 40,000 patients in the Marijuana Medical Access Program letters via regular, as opposed to registered, mail using envelopes clearly marked to indicate the recipient was a participant in the MMAP instead of unmarked envelopes, the Halifax law firm McInnes Cooper has filed a proposed national class action in Federal Court against the Government of Canada for breaching the privacy rights of the patients.

Here’s a link to the law firm’s announcement, and here’s an excerpt:

“As a result of Health Canada’s error, we have already spoken with a number of people whose lives have been affected by this breach,” said David Fraser, a national expert on privacy law, and McInnes Cooper’s lead lawyer on this case. “We have heard that some individuals have already lost their jobs as a result, and everyone we’ve spoken with is concerned about their safety in their homes.”

We’ll have more on the privacy breach, and the impending changes that Health Canada is making to the MMAP, in our Nov. 28 issue.

As well, in Regina Queen’s Bench Court Justice J.A. Whitmore released his decision in an appeal launched by injured worker  Carey Heilman against the Saskatchewan Workers Compensation Board for its refusal to cover the cost of the medicinal cannabis he’s been using for over 10 years to control spasms associated with a painful spinal injury he suffered over two decades ago. Heilman has been using the cannabis under the supervision of a world-renown local neurosurgeon, and has obtained relief that he had previously been unable to find using WCB-funded prescription drugs that had proven toxic to his health.

In denying Heilman’s appeal, Whitmore basically deferred to the almost god-like powers of the WCB to make decisions on behalf of injured workers as long as said decisions were in the ballpark of being based on reasonable grounds. Because the medicinal benefits of cannabis and the absence of potential harmful side effects, in the WCB’s mind, had yet to be definitively proven, it was justified in its decision not to reimburse Heilman, who is on long-term disability and unable to work, for the cost of his cannabis.

Here’s a link to the full decision.

Health Canada Breaches Privacy of Medical Marijuana Users

Health Canada (medical marijuana)I’ve done writing on the issue of medical marijuana and the broader issue of decriminalization of marijuana before. Today, I received a call from someone who is licensed under Health Canada regulations to use marijuana for medical purposes. They said in the past Health Canada communicated via unmarked envelopes delivered by courier. Yesterday, though, the person received the above pictured envelope delivered via regular mail.

Apparently, similar envelopes went out to people across Canada who are licensed by Health Canada to either possess marijuana or grow their own marijuana at home for medical purposes. As you can see from the photo, the envelope clearly identifies the recipient as being associated with the medical marijuana program.

The caller this morning expressed two concerns: first, that their right to privacy with respect to their health information had been breached by Health Canada. Second, that by publicly identifying them as being in possession of marijuana, their personal safety might be endangered should someone decide to break into their home and take the marijuana. In the case of the caller, they’re licensed to receive 10 ounces a month. The street value of that amount of marijuana would be in excess of $2000, making them an inviting target for criminals.

I phoned Health Canada’s media office in Ottawa and received a call back within the hour. The spokesperson attributed the use of the envelopes through regular mail to “administrative error”. He said Health Canada would be releasing a statement later today, but with thousands of envelopes already having been mailed out and delivered the horse, in this case, has definitely left the barn. Once I receive Health Canada’s statement I’ll provide an update.


Here’s Health Canada’s official response to this matter. The upcoming changes that the deputy minister refers to relate to individuals who are licensed to use marijuana for medical purposes being no longer able to grow cannabis for personal use in a private dwelling. Instead, as of March 31, 2014 they will be required to purchase cannabis from a licensed grower. That move was made, Health Canada says, because it had heard “many concerns” that the Marihuana Medical Access Program was “widely open” to abuse. That allegedly took the form of licensed users producing more than they required and selling the rest on the black market. As well, Health Canada says, licensed users without a lot of horticultural expertise would sometimes grow in unsafe conditions that could potentially cause fire and mold issues in a residential setting.

Anyway, here’s the deputy minister’s statement. And I have received word from a person involved with the non-profit Medicinal Cannabis Patients’ Alliance of Canada that legal action is being contemplated against Health Canada for the privacy breach:

Health Canada recently sent approximately 40,000 informational letters to individuals with an interest in upcoming changes to the Marihuana Medical Access Program. I have been advised that as the result of an administrative error, the envelopes were labelled to indicate that they were sent by the Program. This is not standard Health Canada practice.

On behalf of Health Canada, I deeply regret this administrative error. Health Canada is taking steps to ensure this does not happen again. Protection of personal information is of fundamental importance to Health Canada. We are in discussion with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

George Da Pont
Deputy Minister/Sous-ministre
Health Canada, Santé Canada

City Report Delivers Reality Check

Whitmore ParkOn Thursday the Public Works Committee examined a report on Regina’s road and bridge network. As the report outlined, the city currently faces a $261 million backlog in work that needs to be done. At present we spend $15 million a year on road maintenance. Eighty per cent of that money is spent on 20 per cent the road network that carries most of the traffic. That would include main arterials like Albert, Broad, Victoria, Lewvan, etc.

Regina currently has 926 km of asphalt roads, 59 per cent of which are classed as residential. It’s those roads (like the one above in Whitmore Park) that, as they age and wear out, are creating a massive backlog of needed repairs. The report added that 85 per cent of the arterial network was in fair to good condition, while only 45 percent of the residential network was in fair or good condition. And in the last 20 years that network had “deteriorated significantly”.

If Regina continues at its current pace of spending $15 million a year on road maintenance, the report concluded, the backlog of overdue work will grow to $523 million in 2033. It also needs to be remembered that every year Regina is adding more kilometres to its road network as the city continues to tack on new subdivisions in outlying areas. So the situation will only get worse.

No matter what sort of lifestyle we lead, everyone who lives in Regina benefits from our road network. Cyclists use the road; transit users use the road; when we go to stores to shop, we purchase goods that were delivered by truck; we rely on police, fire and ambulance services to protect ourselves and our homes, etc. So it’s only right that all citizens contribute to road maintenance through taxes.

But people who live in low density neighbourhoods, and those who insist on driving over-sized vehicles on long commutes, obviously exact a heavier toll on our road network than those who lead more sustainable lifestyles. A way needs to be found to hold them accountable for the true cost of their lifestyle because otherwise everyone, no matter how frugally they try to live, seems destined to absorb a hefty property tax hit in the next while as we step up maintenance on our crumbling road network.

More needs to be done at the provincial and federal level, too, to provide revenue-generating options for municipalities in recognition of the shift that’s occurring toward urban living in our country. But overall, the report offers a much needed reality check on Regina’s 1970s era, vehicle-dependent, suburban lifestyle.

Are You Cliterate?

Artist Sophia Wallace
Artist Sophia Wallace

Continuing on the subject of the female body’s pleasure centre, a.k.a. the clitoris: here’s an interesting article over on the Huffington Post about artist Sophia Wallace’s clever campaign to raise the profile of this diminuitive and powerful organ. From the article:

  • “It is a curious dilemma to observe the paradox that on the one hand the female body is the primary metaphor for sexuality, its use saturates advertising, art and the mainstream erotic imaginary. Yet, the clitoris, the true female sexual organ, is virtually invisible,” Wallace told Creem magazine earlier this year.


  • “I wanted to talk about female genitals in a way that I felt wasn’t really being talked about,” Wallace said. “For me, this word ‘cliteracy’ perfectly breaks down the idea of the project. It’s this pithy, wonderful little word that encapsulates so much so quickly and so simply. It illuminates this idea of total illiteracy and incompetence when it comes to the female body.”

Check out Wallace’s sex-positive initiative, complete with a clit rodeo and t-shirt series, in full right here.




Rockin’ For Crohns & Colitis

This fundraiser for the above-noted digestion-related diseases goes at the Exchange on Friday. Doors are at 7 p.m. and tickets are $5 advance and $10 at the door. Local musicians who will be playing include Day Trip, Val Halla, I, Automatic, None Shall Sleep Tonight and New Century Rogues.

To give you a sense of the talent that will be on stage that night here’s a video from a few years ago for Val Halla’s song “Black Butterflies”:

Today Is A Sex-Positive Kinda Day


Two good reads out there today in the wash and tide of the internet for the ladies who need a little sex positive reinforcement. Behold!

  • Nobody knew how the clitoris really worked until four years ago: “Picture a clitoris in your mind. Got it? Now, what if I told you that what you’re imagining is just the tip of a much larger, internal clitoral iceberg — that the clitoris is actually much, much larger than what this sensitive bundle of nerve endings would lead you to believe?” (Read the rest here)
  •  Dear Daughter, I Hope You Have Awesome Fucking Sex: A blog post in which the father wants the best for his daughter, but not in a misguided, protectionist way ala Liam Neeson in the movie Taken: “Because consensual sex isn’t something that men take from you; it’s something you give. It doesn’t lessen you to give someone else pleasure. It doesn’t degrade you to have some of your own. And anyone who implies otherwise is a man who probably thinks very poorly of women underneath the surface.” (Read the rest here)

Food for Thought

While I was chowing down on breakfast this morning (a half-and-half bowl of Cheerios and Raisin Bran with 2% milk, a piece of 100 % whole wheat toast with peanut butter and a watered down glass of orange juice) I heard an interview on CBC Radio’s The Current that Anna Maria Tremonti did with American author Michael Moss, who recently published a book titled Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us.

During my repast, I didn’t at any point pick up a salt shaker or sugar spoon. Got to eat healthy, right? But if you were to actually measure the amount of sugar and salt I’d ingested… even though my food choices were relatively healthy compared to most items on the processed food continuum, you’d be surprised.

Here’s a link to Tremonti’s interview with Moss. What it boils down to is that for all sorts of reasons, from shelf-life to taste, texture and marketability, the giant food companies that control huge chunks of the global food supply routinely add significant amounts of salt, sugar and saturated fat to their products.

People don’t do themselves any favours with some of their food and beverage choices, obviously. But even if you try to eat and drink healthy you end up consuming more of the above substances than you need for good nutrition. Others factors, especially our sedentary lifestyle, factor into it. But poor diet is a major contributor to a host of health problems like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and dementia that are reaching epidemic proportions in our society.

The impact it’s having on health care costs is huge. With an aging population, some of that increase is inevitable. But this year the provincial allocation for health is probably going to reach $5 billion. And in a roughly $11 billion budget that’s a shitload pile of money. And Moss argues in his book that we have to find ways to get food processors to improve the health quality of their products by reducing the salt, sugar and saturated fat content.

To close, here’s a video by Rollin’ Wild that’s attracted a fair bit of attention on YouTube lately titled What If Wild Animals Ate Fast Food:

WCB Considers Funding Medical Marijuana For Client

CannabisIIHere’s a link to a news brief I did last May concerning a struggle Carey Heilman and his pro bono lawyer Nicole Sarauer are waging against the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board.

Heilman suffers from debilitating back pain, and for several years he has used marijuana to alleviate his suffering. Typically, the WCB funds medical treatments that injured workers undergo to either improve their health and reenter the work force in some capacity, or to live as actively and comfortably as possible if the injury is long-term. But when Heilman applied to have the cost of the cannabis that he obtains from a licensed grower under Health Canada regulations covered the WCB said no.

With the aid of Sarauer, Heilman sued the WCB in Queen’s Bench court. In granting Heilman a rehearing at the WCB, the judge said it hadn’t executed its administrative duty properly. In making its decision, the judge said, the WCB had relied excessively on its standard medical position on medical marijuana without considering Heilman’s situation specifically.

The rehearing was held earlier today at the WCB office on the second floor of Hill Tower II. At Nicole and Carey’s invitation I intended to sit in on the hearing and see how things went. But when I showed up at the appointed time I was told by a WCB official that in order to protect Heilman’s privacy as a WCB client I would not be allowed to attend the hearing.

I could’ve argued, obviously. Your client is expressly granting me permission to attend his hearing. Why would you feel the need to protect his privacy by excluding me?

The Queen’s Bench judgment opened the door to Sauerer and Heilman presenting updated scientific evidence on the medicinal benefits of cannabis, and the positive impact it’s had on Heilman’s health as documented by Heilman and his doctor. In provinces like Ontario, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick WCBs fund medical marijuana for clients. I wanted to sit in on the hearing so I could see if the WCB officials were really engaged with what Saurer and Heilman were saying, or if they were just going through the motions to comply with the court ruling and then would render the same “blanket policy” verdict as the first time.

In Heilman’s case, none of the typical WCB issues are at stake. There’s no argument that he isn’t entitled to coverage under the WCB Act for a workplace injury. Rather, the issue is whether he and his medication provider are entitled to be reimbursed for the several thousand dollars of marijuana that he’s consumed to date to control his pain, and his future marijuana use to keep his pain at bay. So really the issue is societal in scope as a lot of other sick and injured people who might benefit from cannabis as Heilman has done are potentially impacted.

Right now the WCB has no problem paying for traditional pharmaceuticals for clients for pain relief and other uses. Some, like oxycontin, are opiates and are highly addictive. If you use them as a WCB client and become addicted, the WCB will pay for you to undergo detox. But it won’t fund marijuana, which is increasingly being regarded as a wonder drug that is (i) non-addictive (ii) inexpensive and easily grown and (iii) effective in treating conditions like nausea, anxiety, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, pain and many more.

Whack, I know. But hopefully when the WCB releases its ruling in a few months they’ll see the light and do what’s right.

Hearts & Boners: Breast Cancer PSA

Hearts & BonersI’m interrupting this day of love and frivolity for an important public service announcement: Cancer is really bad. It kills people. And one shitty kind of cancer that predominantly (but not exclusively) affects women is breast cancer. Unfortunately, some of the marketing by charitable organizations that fund breast cancer research and support programs uses young female models with large, lush, beautiful breasts which rocks is just tasteless, insensitive pandering to heterosexual male wallets. Breast cancer isn’t a joke and “save the boobies” campaigns are tacky and insulting (I just watched this commercial seven times in a row because I was so offended).

Fortunately, sexy hunks have been recruited to fight breast cancer and there are videos.

You can learn more about cancer here and looks at hunks here (probably NSFW).

On Inspired Routines, Free of Winter Madness

When the days are short, wintery and dark I personally feel the boundaries of my daily routines closing in about me until I realize that I am able to adjust them to Fit Just Right. As we collectively start into the winter ahead, might I suggest some blog reading and simple adjustments to make life more enjoyable? A daily cup of tea (Early Grey for its uplifting bergamot perhaps), some light therapy care of full-spectrum light bulbs to ward off the winter blues, dance parties and the Brain Pickings blog, which is chockful of inspiring ideas from famous smart people. Check out this recent entry, The Daily Routines of Famous Writers.

Henry Miller‘s daily routine according to Brain Pickings:

If groggy, type notes and allocate, as stimulus.

If in fine fettle, write.


Work of section in hand, following plan of section scrupulously. No intrusions, no diversions. Write to finish one section at a time, for good and all.


See friends. Read in cafés.

Explore unfamiliar sections — on foot if wet, on bicycle if dry.

Write, if in mood, but only on Minor program.

Paint if empty or tired.

Make Notes. Make Charts, Plans. Make corrections of MS.

Note: Allow sufficient time during daylight to make an occasional visit to museums or an occasional sketch or an occasional bike ride. Sketch in cafés and trains and streets. Cut the movies! Library for references once a week.

Rick Rypien, Stephen LaRose And The Case Of The Missing Logo

In case you missed it, Stephen LaRose wrote a fantastically dickish quip in his Six In The Morning post today. Item number four reads in part:

The Regina Pats encourage fans to sign a book of condolences at the Brandt Centre today in memorial to Rick Rypien, who died by his own hand earlier this week (Rob Pedersen). And the widow of Dave Batters chines in, because, as you all know,only Conservatives get depressed. (Leader-Post).

A few things. First, I haven’t read anything confirming Rypien’s death was a suicide, though all the coverage implies that. Second, it doesn’t help anyone when our writer shoehorns a sarcastic cheap shot at the Leader-Post — in this case at a legitimate interview with Dave Batters’ widow in an article about Rypien — into his news quip. There’s nothing wrong with the Leader-Post interviewing her. It’s relevant to the news. Besides, Batter’s death was tragic and his family deserves credit for using that tragedy to try to help people.

In short, Stephen LaRose is being kind of an asshole. But that’s okay. Every newspaper needs one or the shit backs up. It’s apparently Rosie’s turn to wear the hat today. Maybe tomorrow it’ll be me.

Third, I actually get what LaRose is worked up about in his insensitive blog post. He’s attacking the fact that it sometimes seems like it takes the death of an “acceptable” person — like a pro athlete or a successful politician — to draw attention to serious issues like depression, which a lot of people who aren’t successful public figures suffer from. He probably thinks that’s despicable. Well, fair enough. It kind of is.

But can we save that conversation for another time when people aren’t mourning, and maybe not take shots at widows who are trying to help?

Fourth, and unrelated to Stephen “high on Ativan” LaRose, I read a great story on Mark Rick Rypien and hockey fighting in the Columbus Dispatch this morning. It’s interesting, sensitive and probably worth your time. Check it out.

Finally, the Six In The Morning logo is in the media library, where it always is, Rosie. Harumph!

A Can Of Still-Wriggling, Fluoridated Worms

We’re still getting e-mails from cranky readers about our June 2 cover feature. A lot of people just don’t want fluoride in the water. Well, they should be happy because Regina doesn’t fluoridate its water. Also, Regina children’s teeth are weaker than fluoridated Saskatoon children’s teeth. Also, I’m officially out of patience with the hardcore no-fluoridniks.

Our cover feature was a fair article that acknowledged the fluoride issue isn’t black and white. Good for Paul Dechene, who devoted around a third of his article to an interview with anti-fluoridation activist Daeran Gall. While Dechene didn’t agree with Gall, he was pretty damn fair in giving him space to besmirch fluoride.

But still, we get complaints like this:

“I, and many people would like to have a CHOICE to medicated. I applaud Calgary and Waterloo Ontario for stopping their FLUORIDE program. Free speech is great so is “free choice” of medication.”

Yeah. Except that fluoridation works, so we should do it.

Continue reading “A Can Of Still-Wriggling, Fluoridated Worms”

Buzzy Buzz

Joe Couture has a good column in today’s L-P on the City vs. Province scrap over mosquitoes, money and West Nile disease. Snip:

To most people, it’s really irrelevant who pays to have the mosquitoes that could plague the province’s cities killed off. Citizens just want it done. And one way or the other, it’s their tax dollars paying for it. It’s unacceptable, especially in a year when the science shows mosquitoes are likely to be even more prolific than usual, that the city is only spending 60 per cent of what has been its normal amount on mosquito control. Even when extra members are available, the crew will only be about half the size it was last year.

Full thing here. Bzzz.

Pick of the Day: Bike to Work Week

I won’t be participating in this promotion to encourage Reginans, for the week of May 15-19, to ditch motor vehicles as their principal means of getting to work in favour of bicycles.

It’s not that I’m not a fan of cycling. Far from it. I don’t own a car, and for over 20 years now a bike has been my principal mode of transportation in non-winter months. So I’m a huge fan of cycling. But I live across the street from where I work, and if I was to cycle to work I’d technically be breaking the law as you’re not allowed to cycle (or skateboard) on the mall.

I suppose I could walk my bike back and forth across the mall as an expression of solidarity. But then I’d have to rely on the elevator at my place to get down to the main floor instead of just taking the stairs and that would inflict a needless hit on the environment.

You, on the other hand, can do the environment a real plus by leaving your car at home this week and getting to work via a bike (or walking, or even taking the bus, I’m sure organizers are flexible).

We’ve heard a lot of complaints about traffic congestion downtown during the revitalization process. Here’s a perfect opportunity for people who work in the area to think outside the box for a bit and start to buy into a vision that needs to be realized if Regina is to continue to grow and prosper.

And the health benefits … by the end of the week, you’ll feel them. Guaranteed. But one warning. If you do start cycling you’re likely to find it highly addictive. I know I did.

If you visit www.bike2workregina.ca you’ll see that a kick-off for the week is planned for 1-3 p.m. today on the front lawn of the Royal Sask Museum.  There’ll be info sessions on how to do simple bike maintenance and how to attach a bike to the handy-dandy racks on the front of city buses. Then on May 19 (Thursday) at 5 p.m. there’s a Wrap ‘n’ Ride wind-up that gets going at 5 p.m. on the south end of the Scarth St. Mall and will include a bike parade around the downtown.

Random Sunday PSA: Five HIV Fluids

Judging from our mail and blog comments some people sure have a lot of misconceptions about a lot of things. There’s confusion over, for example, human-caused climate change (it’s real), evolution (real), the age of the earth (estimated 4.5-ish billion years), vaccination (a life-saver), music (stop listening to AC/DC!) and spelling (prairie dog’s blog trolls suck at it).

In the spirit of shining a little Enlightenment into the Saskatchewan darkness, here’s a public service announcement by director Jason Wishnow about the five bodily fluids that can transmit HIV. Enjoy.

H/T Boingboing and Jason Wishnow.

Film Critic Lindy West Is Fat

Deal with it, mo-fos!

This is my body (over there—see it?). I have lived in this body my whole life. I have wanted to change this body my whole life. I have never wanted anything as much as I have wanted a new body. I am aware every day that other people find my body disgusting. I always thought that some day—when I finally stop failing—I will become smaller, and when I become smaller literally everything will get better (I’ve heard It Gets Better)! My life can begin! I will get the clothes that I want, the job that I want, the love that I want. It will be great! Think how great it will be to buy some pants or whatever at J. Crew. Oh, man. Pants. Instead, my body stays the same.

There is not a fat person on earth who hasn’t lived this way. Clearly this is a TERRIBLE WAY TO EXIST. Also, strangely enough, it did not cause me to become thin. So I do not believe any of it anymore, because fuck it very much.

And that’s just the beginning.

Context: West is a film critic and all-purpose comedian at The Stranger, one of two Seattle alt-weeklies and frankly, one of the best damn magazines on the continent. The senior editor at The Stranger is Dan Savage, the funniest and arguably best sex advice columnist in the world, as well as the founder of the It Gets Better Project.

Savage, a good-looking 40-something gay guy who works out a lot, is known for blunt and funny statements.  Sometimes he directs his wit at weight and obesity. In his defence, Savage is a strong advocate for healthy living and healthy eating and a raging critic of junk food and high fructose corn syrup and the lobbyists who fight for them, and good for him for that. He is absolutely sympathetic to the fact that not everyone is born with modelesque bone structure and genes. But he doesn’t have a lot of patience for the United States’ obesity epidemic and he sure does use the word “fat” a lot.

West works in Savage’s office. She is 263 pounds. She is a smart and hilarious writer. Her ferociously crass Sex In The City 2 review is awe-inspiring. Her review of The Eagle ran under the headline “Penis Penis Penis”. If it matters, she also looks great:

Savage recently wrote a blog post suggesting that if gay marriage should be outlawed because legal gay marriages would perpetrate an unhealthy lifestyle — this is an honest-to-god argument some idiots use, by the way — then fat marriage should also be outlawed. As usual he makes a good point, but readers who struggle with weight probably weren’t laughing. In fact, they probably felt like they’re just collateral damage in Savage’s campaign against homophobic shenanigans.

Lindy West remarked on his post, obviously peeved. And then she cut loose, and blogged a cap in his skinny ass. And it was glorious.

That’s a lot of background info for one link, so thanks for your patience with this post. It’s only February but in my books Lindy West’s Statement Of Fat is a leading candidate for Best Alt-Weekly Blog Post of 2011. Check it out!