Lifelong cannabis crusader celebrates legal pot
New legislation will encourage dialogue: Fagan
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.”