Nova Scotia man on hunger strike to fight for medical access to weed

Bob Dillman says he won't eat until his local dispensaries offer product with a patient in mind

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      Bob Dillman, a medical cannabis patient, hasn’t ingested anything except tonic water since last Monday (October 22), reports Vice.

      “It’s been four days and I am going to stay this way until someone changes the way they're dealing with us,” he told Vice reporter Mack Lamoureux last Thursday (October 25).

      The 49-year-old resident of Sheet Harbour suffers from a lower-back injury and digestive issues, which he manages with roughly five grams of cannabis a day. He says the new cannabis regulations don't prioritize the patients who rely on weed to treat medical conditions.

      In the past, Dillman sourced his pot from a handful of illicit dispensaries in the region. Since October 17, the official date of adult-use legalization, many of those shops shut down for fear of penalties. Several of the illicit storefronts in B.C. and Newfoundland that decided to stay open in spite of the new laws have already been raided and fined.

      In the federal legislation, access for patients with medical cannabis was relegated to online purchases through either provincial databases or licensed cannabis producers, all of whom are also supplying the recreational market. Many provinces are already experiencing product shortages and backlogs in orders.

      Dillman says the government stores in his province are now too expensive and don’t provide the high-quality product he needs to manage his conditions.

      In the place of privately owned stores, Nova Scotia opted to sell legal recreational weed through the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSCL), the province's regulating body for alcohol. Since October 17, just 12 government stores have opened across the province to distribute cannabis products. To purchase weed online, customers must first visit a store, present government identification, and register as a user with a unique digital access code.

      Currently, Dillman receives just under $1,500 from the Workers Compensation Board and says he is not able to afford the amount of cannabis products he needs at the NSLC prices, which start at about $6.33 per gram.

      Even if he could foot the bill, Dillman says, the quality currently isn’t up to par with the medical-grade cannabis he needs.

      He says, due to a chemical sensitivity, he requires specific strains grown organically, which are not currently available from legal growers.

      “I can’t use anything that’s tainted with pesticides,” he says to Vice. “So I can’t use any of their crap because it would just rip my guts out.”

      Dillman’s goal is to push the province to allow private dispensaries to service the large medical community living in Nova Scotia. According to the article, the government has yet to respond to his plea.

      This isn’t the first time Dillman has made headlines for his medical cannabis advocacy, either. In 2015, he and his wife were arrested and charged with possession and cultivation after the Nova Scotia government nixed their home growers program in favour of federally licensed producers. The charges were dropped.

      “Now I’m a criminal,” says Dillman in an interview with the Chronicle Herald regarding his hunger strike.

      “To stay healthy I have to be a criminal.”