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Blind, Diabetic, Double-Amputee Dies After Being Evicted for Medical Marijuana Use

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When we talk about who has the best slum landlord stories we now have to mention this tragic case.

Marilyn Holsten was 49 years old and in frail health, suffering from diabetes. She'd had both legs amputated, was almost blind, and received dialysis six hours a day. She lived for eight years at Anavets Senior Citizens Housing Society building at 951 8th Ave E, Vancouver Canada.

Marilyn's landlord did not like the smell of marijuana, so he gave her an eviction notice. She became very distraught and as a result her health deteriorated rapidly. Eventually, she died of a heart attack this August. Her sister, Moira O'Neil, said Marilyn's last days on Earth were a living hell.

To cope with her dreadful pain, Marilyn used marijuana. Her only mistake was that she didn't have the authorization to possess pot. She said that she was overwhelmed by the paperwork to get permission from the government. But she did have a letter from her doctor, Dr. Fraser Norrie, stating that he recommended marijuana use as part of her medical treatment. Dr. Norrie asked Marilyn's landlord to accept her need to smoke marijuana. In response, Mary McLeod, the administrator of Anavets, said, "While your doctor supports your decision to use marijuana, he has not prescribed it for medicinal purposes," and that "Marijuana use is still against the law and ... as part of your tenancy agreement, you agreed you would not participate in illegal activities."

Numerous organizations support allowing patients legal access to medical marijuana, including the AIDS Action Council, American Bar Association, American Public Health Association, California Medical Association, National Association of Attorneys General, and several state nurses associations. Public opinion also supports ending the prohibition of medical marijuana. According to a Gallup poll, 73% of Americans are in favor of "making marijuana legally available for doctors to prescribe in order to reduce pain and suffering."

Marijuana is an indispensable medicine that helps mitigate chronic pain and stimulates appetite. Patients suffering from cancer, AIDS and other forms of disease greatly benefit from access to marijuana. While the debate over marijuana use for medical purposes has come a long way over the past decade, even in places with medical marijuana laws patients still often face life-threatening discrimination.

A protest memorial is planned on September 2nd in front of the apartment building Marilyn lived in. Hopefully the death of Marilyn Holsten will not be in vain and can be used to help others legitimize the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Anthony Papa is the author of
15 To Life and a communications specialist for Drug Policy Alliance.

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