No power for legal pot garden

TORONTO, ONTARIO - William Palmer has a licence from Health Canada to grow medical marijuana to help him deal with his HIV — but that didn't stop the fire department and the city's social housing provider from calling his garden a safety risk and turning off his electricity.

That was three weeks ago and Palmer has had no electricity to refrigerate his HIV medications in his apartment in a Toronto Community Housing (TCH) building on Dundas St. E.

"A year ago I asked my landlord for permission and consent to set up my operation. I put my Health Canada licence with my application but I never got a response," he said. "I knew sooner or later someone would make a stink about it but I never thought I would have my power turned off."

Medical marijuana can relieve the nausea caused by HIV medications, increase a patient's appetite and help with chronic pain. Palmer, 44, who was diagnosed with HIV in 1997, had a marijuana crop of 25 small plants.

His operation was set up by a professional electrician so he said there is no safety risk. "My plants are dead and I'm living in the dark," he said.

On Sept. 23 Palmer was in the unit next door, occupied by his father, when he says he heard the landlord and firefighters enter his apartment.

"I had no notice from (TCH) housing that they would be entering my apartment. I heard them going in and I was paranoid and couldn't move," Palmer said.

"When they turned off the electricity, they put my health at risk. At least, I can store my drugs in my dad's fridge."

Social housing officials will look into the situation but won't discuss specifics, citing privacy laws, according to TCH spokesman Jeff Ferrier.

Palmer's lawyer, John Norquay, with the HIV and AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario, wrote to housing officials, noting his client is legally allowed to produce marijuana.

Norquay told housing officials they have a legal duty under the Human Rights Code to accommodate Palmer's disabilities, in this case, HIV.


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