Medical Marijuana Exemptee
Born in Toronto, Canada in 1954, Rick Reimer practiced law in a small Eastern-Ontario town (Pembroke) from 1979 until 2000, when Multiple Sclerosis forced his retirement. During his legal career he had become increasingly incensed with cannabis prohibition, and became an advocate for law reform. After his medical diagnosis, he became one of Canada's (and therefore the world's) first legal medicinal marijuana users, and may be the only person in the world's history to have smoked a legal joint in jail, when arrested in Ottawa during a G-20 protest. Rick now lives in the eclectic community of Killaloe, Ontario, Canada, where he creates and supports music, poetry, and other forms of evidence that we remain conscious, culturally viable and spiritually free. His advocacy now takes the form of music, poetry and public speaking. He advocates on behalf of the beautiful ganja plant, world peace, community radio, and other such worthy causes.
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me begin by making a confession. This is not, in fact, a biography
but an /auto/biography. I don't wish to appear immodest, but I wanted
to share all the things I feel to be relevant about my life. If there's
This website [ Visit Rick's website - www.rickreimer.ca ] is meant to be more about my /ideas/ than about myself, and I would like to hear as many ideas as possible from visitors. Please visit the message board, write to me using either form of mail (isn't the receipt of a personal letter in the mail an absolute /luxury/ these days?!).
I'll respond as best I can. If there's some other website you think mine should be linked to, please let me know.
have described me as "Killaloe's own Rainbow Warrior". Again,
I don't want to sound immodest, but I like being compared to the boat
which often stands between innocent creatures and man-made destruction.
Somehow, through the intricacies of destiny and karma, it has become
both my duty and my pleasure to stand between the people and the forces
saying I stand between the people and Babylon, I don't mean to set
myself apart from "the people". I'm no more nor less common
than anyone else. I just happen to have a place in life and a medical
condition which permit me a platform for advocacy, and some background
job training which provides a knowledge base from which to advocate
fairly confidently and in relative safety. I say "relative"
safety because my advocacy sometimes lands me in trouble with the
authorities, but so far
I was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on November 4, 1954, and had a relatively normal middle-class suburban childhood. My parents were both of German descent, so I learned to speak that language as a child, a blessing since, in my opinion, this life is all about communication, therefore I believe in learning at least a smattering of as many languages as possible. It's a sign of respect for the culture you're visiting (either geographically or through another person).
a brief hiatus of typical Don Mills rebellion (dropping out of high
school, buying a motorcycle, etc.) I returned to the conservative
world in 1974, by enrolling in Osgoode Hall Law School (can't you
almost hear the trumpet fanfare?). I wasn't really sure I /wanted/
to be a lawyer, but I needed /some/ kind of a job, and I'd always
enjoyed arguing (I wasn't disciplined enough then for debating) and
otherwise working with words. I even quit smoking pot for my first
year of law school (I had been a daily user since age 13), thinking
that a future cog in the justice system ought not to openly flout
laws. It didn't take
make another confession. I'M A PROCRASTINATOR! I sort of missed the
deadline to apply for an articling job. "Articling" is the
period of mandatory slavery which the legal profession idealistically
touts as "on-the-job" training, which usually entails a
lot of standing at photocopiers and going for coffee. As fate would
have it my Uncle Arnold knew a small-town lawyer who, similarly, was
a PROCRASTINATOR and had sort of missed the deadline to request an
articling student. This
me to parenthetically thank my Uncle for my middle name. When my parents
christened me "Richard /Arnold/" they, of course, had no
idea what shame "Green Acres" viewers would lavish upon
teenaged bearers of that monicker the next decade. I'm sure this abuse
inured me to future slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (as in
there I was a lawyer in Petawawa, Ontario, a small town near Pembroke,
dominated by an Armed Forces Base. I got married, grew a ratty moustache,
had two sons (Max and Nick - now in their twenties) and got divorced.
As my legal career progressed I became more and more incensed with
the waste and hypocrisy of criminalizing the activity of cannabis
saw people working within the justice system who chose to disavow
and dishonour their own knowledge, rather than admit their knowledge
of the true nature of cannabis to a system which shunned such actual
knowledge, in favour of rhetoric. As my professional emphasis on marijuana
cases increased, so did my frustration with the system. In the summer
By that summer (1998) I had become involved in CHCR <http://www.chcr.org> (Canadian Homegrown Community Radio) in Killaloe as a volunteer DJ. Killaloe is an enigma of a community, split between the descendants of stoic pioneers who eked a living out of marginal farm land, and then moved on with progress, and the descendants of hippies and draft dodgers, who left the march of progress and currently try to eke a living out of marginal farm land.
during that same summer of 1998, I began noticing some disturbing
problems with my balance and co-ordination. While playing a charity
golf tournament one late morning in June, I became wildly disoriented.
I scolded myself for being drunk so early in the day, then realized
I hadn't had a drink for several days. My doctor referred me to a
neurologist, and while I waited until November for my appointment,
several similar incidents occurred. I was soon diagnosed with Multiple
Sclerosis, a disease which I had known virtually nothing about before.
I know only a little more now. My symptoms now (nausea, fatigue, loss
of equilibrium, incontinence, tinnitus, etc.) are tolerable and I
always say that the advantage of having an unpredictable disease is
that it permits unlimited vistas for optimism. MS is a strange breed
In 1998, few people would have known the law even allowed for medical marijuana exemptions. I happened to be familiar with the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and submitted one of the first applications. I also had access to a secretary and a fax machine, so that I could become the proverbial "squeaky wheel" and pester Health Canada with letters. At that time the government hadn't even established criteria for exemptions (I don't even think they had an "in" tray) and I suppose I presented a likely and optically acceptable recipient, being a lawyer and all. I received my medical marijuana exemption in March, 2000. When I applied, it was to the "BUREAU OF DRUG SURVEILLANCE". That office, through an exercise in doublespeak, has now become the "Healthy Environments and Consumer Safety Branch". What they don't know about marijuana would fill volumes. The even misspell it as "mari/h/uana" and promulgate ridiculous regulations which they couldn't enforce even if they tried. For a look at our costly, disrespectful and Kafkaesque medical marihuana scheme, please go to the Health Canada Office of Cannabis Medical Access <http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hecs-sesc/ocma/index.htm>. Then browse and laugh to your heart's content at Canada's Keystone Kop stance on medical mari/h/uana use, which still defers to an overwhelming philosophy of prohibition, which is ridiculous. Once something is medicine in my hands, how can it be a crime in yours?
the spring of 2000, my symptoms had worsened to the point that I knew
I must end my legal career, in fairness both to my clients and to
myself. It was anomalous and ironic to work determinedly (when added
stress exarcerbated my symptoms) with a view to achieving a targeted
"retirement" date. This was the only way I could see to
ease out of my
Since retiring from law practice, my life has been generally much less stressful. I now live in the Killaloe area, with my lovely doula-woman Tammy, whom I met in 1998. I knew I was out with the right woman when our first date ended in a skinny-dip at a conservation area, without a care for the watchful eyes of tourists. What's a doula? A professional birthing coach who cares for the labouring mother (as opposed to the infant) before, during and after childbirth. For more information on doulas, check www.birthmatters.ca <http://www.birthmatters.ca>.
is a wonderful, thoughtful, compassionate soul who gives and gives
and gives. Now that I don't drive anymore (that's another sad tale
of disrespect - look for it someday in the WRITINGS BY RICK <lyrics.shtml>
section) she even has to play chauffeur. My mother, who with typical
German stoicism is ready to pull up her hip-waders, move from Toronto
to Killaloe and devote her twilight years to caring for me, is constantly
amazed that Tammy stays with me through all these trials and
and I have a strong relationship, which we both attribute to a blend
of love and respect and a willingness to communicate. After all, communication's
what it's all about, n'est-ce pas? Tammy and I moved to the Killaloe
area shortly after my retirement. We live with our three dogs: Flimp,
Zipper and Magga. A recent addition to the family has been
were brought to Killaloe by a combination of things, or perhaps it's
just one thing expressed in a number of ways. We had both been involved
for a number of years with CHCR <http://www.chcr.org> (Canadian
Homegrown Community Radio), a volunteer-run, non--profit FM station
which began in Killaloe in 1998, and is still going strong six years
later. Killaloe is an enigma. Originally marginal farmland, the area
became home to many conscientious objectors from the United States
large measure, the consciousness of this community is caused by and/or
a result of (it's a chicken and egg thing) our Community Radio Station.
For more information on CHCR click here <http://www.chcr.org>
START A COMMUNITY RADIO STATION IN YOUR AREA! It's very, very liberating
to have a forum to express one's point of view (political or otherwise)
straying from the autobiographical facts again. My retirement from
lawyering hasn't totally distanced me from the law. In February, 2002
I was charged with impaired driving, when I continued smoking a joint
after being pulled over by an OPP officer. If you want a partial account
of the trial, check out the article by Bill Rogers of Canadian Lawyer
Magazine which you can read by going to the billrogers.ca <http://www3.sympatico.ca/rogers2000/reimer.html>.
I was acquitted of impaired driving after a 3-day trial. I had hoped
the trial (which never would have occurred if I had taken the simple
expedient of extinguishing my joint before alighting from the driver's
seat) would bring some much-needed attention and governmental debate
to the issue of marijuana decriminalization. The trial was a dismal
failure from that point of view. As soon as the immediate media attention
was over, the politicians buried their collective heads in the sand
again. Politicians really
here we are in post-Ledain limbo again, waiting for Paul "/May
I lick your boots, Mr. Bush?/" Martin to show his true colours.
I suspect he'll take whatever course most helps him and his. Remember,
this is the man who seeks to rule a country in which he chooses to
live, but avoids paying his fair share of taxes by registering his
ships in another nation. He's trying to convince us of his forward-thinking
and "Liberal" views by re-introducing the Cauchon "decriminalization"
bill initiated during Jean Chretien's tenure. This bill represents
no progress for pot smokers whatsoever. It simply gives more discretion
to the police to dictate our drug policy. And you know what police
do with that kind of opportunity? Create a bogus enemy (the marijuana
bogey-man) and then start requisitioning more money and resources
to fight him. Look for
So, I still have the odd /contre-temps/ with Johnny Law. At my first court appearance on the impaired driving charge, I was arrested TWICE for possession of marijuana (I was smoking openly in the court parking lot with a news camera running) when I refused to show my marijuana exemption papers. I had explained to the officers that, owing to the haphazrd fashion in which the medical marijuana scheme had been created, a Catch-22 had been created whereby I was under no legal obligation to show my papers. I guess the police had never heard of a Catch-22 which worked in favour of the civilian rather than in favour of expediency, bureaucracy and homogeneity. After being manhandled (my arms hurt for months afterwards because of the way the police twisted them) the officer came back to me and said: "No charges. Let's just forget the whole thing." Well, I'm so very sure!!!! I have a lawsuit on now against the OPP, the cop who arrested me, and the sergeant who gave the order to bust me. For a more detailed account, go to the WRITING BY RICK <lyrics.shtml> section and check my letter of March 28, 2002. Stay tuned for more details as the lawsuit progresses. It's still in its infancy.
Back to the autobiography. After I retired from legal work in 2000, my interest in music (which had been scared into semi-hibernation by law school, and languished there ever since) resurfaced. Just as my career had turned more to defending marijuana charges in its closing years, I saw activism as a role for which I was well suited. The two goals (songwriting and activism) combined in the first song I wrote (as an adult), which was "Big Fuss". This has become a motto of sorts for me.
very proud of /The Killaloe Rastaman/, my first CD. It's a Killaloe
project from beginning to end. All the musicians are local. All the
production was done locally at ASOMA STUDIOS <http://www.webhart.net%5Cfrancis>,
the home of my brethren and musical genius, Errol Francis. He used
to perform (and won a JUNO award) under the stage name "Errol
Anthony Starr". Everything to do with /The Killaloe Rastaman/
was done locally, except the printing of the insert
Creative writing (radio plays, essays, songs, poetry, etc.) I find to be great fun, and personally very satisfying. As with CHCR Community Radio, it's a nice way to spread your point of view. I don't pretend to have any more answers than anyone else, it's only that I've been blessed with an opportunity to speak out on issues of importance to me. As I said before, I see it as both my duty and my pleasure.
I hope that others will contact me, and leave their own views on the MESSAGE BOARD. It's all about communication. The only way we'll defeat Babylon is by showing a solid front, and refusing to stoop to their tactics. If we continue to communicate with one another and show RESPECT, we will be heard. POWER BACK TO THE PEOPLE!
Reimer, February 2004.