Marco Renda has made it his life mission to raise awareness about the benefits of and need for medical marijuana.
He is infected with Hepatitis C and is one of fewer than 5,000 people in Canada licensed to possess medical marijuana.
“Although Canada approved the use of medical marijuana for certain health conditions in 1999, the process to get a license is lengthy and difficult,” explains Renda. “In the meantime, people are suffering and being forced to resort to illegal means to obtain this much-needed medication.”
To obtain a licence, a doctor must fill out a medical form that clearly defines how the patient’s condition falls under Health Canada’s require-ments. This form puts the onus on doctors, forcing them to act as gate-keepers. Even with a doctor’s approval and after sending in all the required information, patients have to wait many months for approval.
The Benefits of Medical Marijuana
Marijuana’s active ingredient, THC, helps combat symptoms and side effects from cancer chemotherapy management, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS symptomatic manage-ment, migraine, multiple sclerosis, pain, severe arthritis as well as spinal cord injury disease. Research contin-ues into other uses for marijuana including Alzheimer’s, breast cancer and brain tumours.
Some allege, such as BBC Filmmaker Len Richmond, that marijuana has curative properties. His sixty minute documentary What if Cannabis Cured Cancer? claims to show con-vincing proof of the healing proper-ties of the cannabis plant.
Educating Patients, Caregivers and the General Public
To provide patients with information to assist them in the responsible use of medical marijuana Renda created Treating Yourself, a magazine distributed worldwide, by patients for patients.
“The magazine is great for reaching out to and educating patients,” says Renda. “But the people who really need educating are the caregivers, politicians and the general public.”
Seeking to bring awareness to and educate this audience, Renda started the first annual Treating Yourself (Medical Marijuana & Hemp) Expo in 2010. Held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, it was the first of its kind in Canada. With no smoking allowed on the premises, the Treating Yourself Expo maintained a professional atmosphere in successfully promoting the responsible use of medical marijuana. Patients with licences and their own marijuana were welcome to try out the Vapour Lounge, while other attendees browsed booths filled with educational materials, paraphernalia and hemp products.
“Education can change the mistaken impression people have of medical marijuana users,” says Renda. “Most patients are professionals with good jobs or elderly people.”