He's not in it for the high

Sue Hickey
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Grand Falls-Windsor native David Shea lives in Halifax, but was home for a visit last weekend, when he took time to promote his activities as a patient advocate for medical marijuana. He is involved with the group Maritimers Unite for Medical Marijuana.

Grand Falls-Windsor - Meet David Shea and you might notice the skin on his face and hands is taut and pale. It's not for lack of time spent outdoors, but because of an uncommon condition known as scleroderma - a chronic systemic autoimmune disease, mainly of the skin.

Up to 40,000 Canadians have the disease, which can make life very uncomfortable.

That's why the Grand Falls-Windsor native, who now lives in Halifax, promotes the use of medical marijuana to the public as well as to health professionals - not as a way to get high, but as a safe drug that can alleviate the symptoms of various diseases.

He is the head of patient advocacy with the organization Maritimers Unite for Medical Marijuana (www.mumm.ca).

He was studying accounting, but had to go on a disability pension when he developed the disease. He tried to work at first, but one of the symptoms when the autoimmune system attacks the body is that scar tissue develops.

In Shea's case, the symptoms made work too difficult and painful.

"The doctors prescribed me medications, but I've always been wary of drugs, so I would research what medication they would recommend to me," he said.

"Often, with my condition, it was better to not take it at all."

He discovered that medical marijuana was thought to help alleviate several symptoms among people with serious medical conditions, like cancer. Shea said he knew that it would help him improve his appetite, and before he started taking cannabis as prescribed, he ate rarely, and with chronic pain.

"I learned that it was safe to use, actually phenomenal," he said. "That's when I went to my doctor and I asked about it. I've been to two separate specialists, and both of them were in complete agreement that it was the thing for me."

He doesn't "smoke up" like recreational marijuana users. He gets it in raw, unprocessed form but usually ingests it in baked cookies or something similar.

Medical marijuana is approved for use by Health Canada, and people who want to grow the plant in order to supply the market for that purpose have to obtain a government licence approving the cultivator as a certified grower.

Shea wants to dispel the idea that people using cannabis for legitimate medical purposes are always "under the influence."

"That kind of intoxication is something that happens the first week of using it, but if you're using it on a continual basis, that doesn't happen anymore," he said.

"And if I don't take it, the chronic pain comes back. Eating was a very big issue for me, and if I don't take medical marijuana, I don't want to even look at food."

As a patient advocate, he has worked with other patients who have seen doctors who have told them the product is illegal, which isn't the case.

"My hope is to educate patients and let doctors know there is a legal program to allow them to recommend cannabis," he said.

Shea buys his supply from Health Canada.

"I've never met people who recommend opiates for pain, but I've met loads of patients who recommend cannabis," he said.


Organizations: Maritimers Unite for Medical Marijuana, Health Canada

Geographic location: Grand Falls, Halifax

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page



Recent comments

  • judy jamieson
    August 05, 2011 - 12:27

    Congratulations David on an excellent article. I too, am a medical cannabis patient. It is high time for Parliament to do the right thing and create a clause in the criminal code that does NOT make it criminal to be medical. On the contrary. WE ARE PATIENTS just like other citizens who use medicine. Alternative medicine is an option for patients and a right for all citizens of this country to choose to use. Making money by big phama and our governments and court system seem to have taking precedent over medical care. I for one, will fight with every breath I have left to the right to use medicine that works for me. Please join me in that fight. You may need it yourself one day and THEN I am sure you would understand.

  • Michael J. Kaer
    August 03, 2011 - 10:45

    As a cardholder/advocate I, along with guys like David (he should have been a lawyer- he goes in to such details in his legal arguments...) have crafted a document that outlined over 40 fatal flaws in the MMAR. That document is having an impact on how the future system will look like and gives notice to the government that we will fight every single non-constitutional item. David is one of those unsung heroes in the background that now needs to be "Sung".

  • Laurie MacEachern
    August 03, 2011 - 10:04

    I too am a Federally Licensed Medical Marijuana user with an extremely painful degenerative neurological condition. Chronic Idiopathic Demyelinating Symmetric Peripheral Neuropathy is what they call it and I have also been diagnosed with IBS and Fibromyalgia. Remembering and pronouncing the "name" of my condition is difficult, living with it is a nightmare. When my GP quit and dropped me cold for a perceived "breach of contract" I was able to detox from and replace $30,000/year worth of toxic chemical pharmaceuticals (320 mg. Oxycontin, 12 Percocet, 2700 mg. Gabapentin, 150 mg. Effexor and 20 mg. Amitriptyline per DAY) with 5 grams/day of Medicinal Cannabis. I now see my GP once a year for a checkup and to have my MMAR application signed. I used to see a Physician over 30 times every year. My doctor now understands that I can manage my health with cannabis better than he ever could. Canada desperately needs more like him and the world needs to open their eyes and recognize that Cannabis IS Medicine. We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. ~ Plato

  • Chris Hillier
    August 03, 2011 - 09:48

    There is no profit in a cure. Better keep it illegal, the sicker they are, the more money we make. We're on to you guys, and just like the Walls of Communism fell in Germany, so will the walls of prohibition in the free world,,, it's just a matter of time.

  • Julian Pursell
    July 26, 2011 - 07:20

    I use it to treat Asperger's. It's the only non-toxic thing that works (apart from ashtanga yoga). It should not be illegal. Our governments have known about it's anti-tumour action since the '70s and kept it quite. I call that genocide.

  • Jon
    July 25, 2011 - 23:41

    I think you guys in Canada should be thankful you are able to legally use Cannabis for medicinal purposes....it is not currently legal in most countries for this purpose...including the UK and Australia...and etc etc etc.. Great story thankyou...hope it helps to dispel the myths that cannabis has no therapeutic value whatsoever...we need a change of view in the other countries ..to help the sick.

  • T-Roy
    July 25, 2011 - 14:34

    HI Hear you Russel. I use for insomnia and its much better than the prescribed drugs which gave the sensation of being in a can with wind whistling across the top of it. Dunno how anyone is supposed to deal with insomnia with those side effects.

  • Chris Cannada
    July 25, 2011 - 11:24

    I can fully agree with what Russell said above. 100%. I was in what I call the "Pharma-Phog" for a few years until I was able to replace all my medications with Cannabis. Doctors, family & friends could not be happier, huge improvements in pain control, mood control, appetite and general 'desire' to live outside my room. The Pharma-Phog is very much like being in a jar of jelly. It is NO way to live, sick or not, there is NO quality of life when on a cocktail of pharmaceuticals. I use 15 grams a day, mostly eaten. NO ONE has ever known, including old friends, family, police... even with face to facve chit chat, NO outward appearance of what ppl think of as 'high'. Regular users do not have this problem of 'couch-lock' or laziness - All lies. The only reason it is suppressed as medicine is because Big Pharma makes NO money off of it. Yet. As soon as they can, they will push cannabis is the 'life saving' miracle plant we already KNOW it is.

  • Russell Barth
    July 25, 2011 - 07:43

    Many people won't believe that David Shea isn't in it for the high. As a Federally Licensed Medical Marijuana User who is also married to one, people are often astonished to hear that I use ten grams of marijuana every day, because I exhibit NO outward indications of intoxication. I have Fibromyalgia and PTSD, so every night before bed I melt 3.5 grams into 70 ml of olive oil. This helps me sleep and reduces my overall pain and spasms and nausea. I do the same thing every morning. I also inhale the remaining 3 grams through a Volcano Vaporizer, which delivers four times the amount of medicine as the same amount smoked. I have more energy, I can think clearly, I have more strength, I got out of the wheelchair to which I was tethered for 5.5 years, and I am confident that I could pass any roadside sobriety test. The only "side-effects" I am noticing is "Music Over-appreciation", and significantly increased libido. The pills usually prescribed for these conditions - drugs that have already almost killed me more than once - gives the user a sensation not unlike being submerged in some sort of beige jelly. A vague, detached, living-underwater feeling that is no way for any human to live. But the problem is, people refuse to believe it! For over 100 years, the cops, government, and media have portrayed marijuana users as total losers who can't even wipe themselves without help! I am living proof, right in front of their eyes, and they refuse to believe it. Classic Canadiana!

    • Stella Clarke
      October 24, 2015 - 23:01

      Hi Russell,my name is Stella Clarke I have a nephew who has cancer of the lung he is 37 years old & has 2 young children It is a very rear cancer he has,only 19 people in the whole world with it In the last 30 days he lost over 30 lbs He has no energy & is sick most of the time on this new drug he is taking now The dr.in st.johns nl gave him 12-24 months to live The 12 months will be up early spring but I don't think he will last thet long if something don't change for him soon DO YOU THINK THIS WOULD WORK FOR HIM IF SO HOW DO WE FIND A Dr. In Newfoundland that will help him A very concerned aunt

  • Marie
    July 25, 2011 - 07:29

    I have severe chronic pain and I would not think twice about taking medical marijuana for my pain say long as I would not get high from it. I have been in so much pain that If I was handy to an axes I would have cut off my arm myself. It would hurt less then the pain I was already in. So I can see how it can help people and it should be used more then it is now. But it has to be tightly controled.

    • Russell Barth
      July 25, 2011 - 10:11

      tightly controlled? nonsense. safer than table salt, safer than aspirin.... even water can kill you if you drink too much, but pot never will. tightly controlled? Pft! They should put tighter controls on Red Bull and sell pot at the corner store because pot is actually GOOD for you, and red bull is not.