Life­long cannabis cru­sader cel­e­brates le­gal pot

New leg­is­la­tion will en­cour­age di­a­logue: Fa­gan

Calgary Herald - - CITY+REGION - EVA FER­GU­SON MED­I­CAL PUR­POSES efer­gu­[email protected]­media.com

Dart­ing across the street to buy a Mother’s Day card at the age of nine, Keith Fa­gan was sud­denly struck by a ve­hi­cle.

While he sur­vived, his hip had given him daily, at times ex­cru­ci­at­ing, pain ever since.

Un­til years later, as a teenager, when he dared to trade a choco­late bar for mar­i­juana out­side the cor­ner store.

“Sud­denly, for the first time in years I thought, ‘Oh man that feels bet­ter, I can move bet­ter, and I just feel hap­pier.’ I con­tin­ued con­sum­ing from then on.”

Fa­gan, now 59 and in a wheel­chair for a va­ri­ety of health is­sues, be­came an out­spo­ken ad­vo­cate in favour of mar­i­juana le­gal­iza­tion. He calls pro­hi­bi­tion a so­cial in­jus­tice which has seen or­di­nary, de­cent, and oth­er­wise law-abid­ing cit­i­zens treated like crim­i­nals sim­ply be­cause they wanted to ease their pain.

At the age of 16, even Fa­gan him­self was jailed for 30 days at Spy Hill after po­lice found a cannabis pipe in his pos­ses­sion.

“It was the most ter­ri­fy­ing time of my life. I was beat up by a body­builder. He knew I was there on drug charges, he thought I was this dirty, evil per­son.”

For decades, Fa­gan had been a right-hand man to pot cru­sader Grant Krieger, who chal­lenged pot le­gal­iza­tion all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. In 2000, Krieger, who also suf­fers from mul­ti­ple sclero­sis, won a ju­di­cial rul­ing al­low­ing him to use cannabis for med­i­cal pur­poses.

A year later, Health Canada al­lowed le­gal ac­cess to cannabis to peo­ple across the coun­try suf­fer­ing from var­i­ous med­i­cal con­di­tions.

Fa­gan says he and Krieger grew pot to­gether, distribut­ing it free to peo­ple need­ing it for pain and chronic con­di­tions.

“We saw so many peo­ple suf­fer­ing so badly. We risked a lot to grow, create oils and not even charge any­thing. But we were help­ing peo­ple, and it felt good.”

Fa­gan has also ad­vo­cated for pot le­gal­iza­tion as a po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist for the Green party of Canada, as re­gional di­rec­tor for NORML Canada, a fed­eral non-profit pro­cannabis group. Fa­gan says he also founded Cal­gary 420, Al­berta 420 and Cannabis 420 in 2005.

On Wed­nes­day, Fa­gan joined hun­dreds of Cal­gar­i­ans cel­e­brat­ing the le­gal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana at a down­town rally, with the mes­sage, “We’re here. We’re high. Get used to it.”

Fa­gan ar­gues cannabis le­gal­iza­tion is not just about peo­ple want­ing to get high, it’s about giv­ing ac­cess to those who need it for medic­i­nal pur­poses, par­tic­u­larly chronic pain.

Fa­gan feels the fed­eral govern­ment’s ex­ist­ing leg­is­la­tion is still re­stric­tive with harsh penal­ties, like up to 14 years in jail for pro­vid­ing cannabis to a mi­nor.

But at the same time, he added, le­gal­iza­tion will in­crease aware­ness and en­cour­age on­go­ing con­ver­sa­tions and de­bate around how to im­prove ex­ist­ing leg­is­la­tion.

“Peo­ple are at least will­ing to talk about it now with­out hav­ing to be so afraid of get­ting ar­rested.”

Keith Fa­gan

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