There is a lot of background information that is needed to fully understand what happened the day I was pulled into detainment by the RNC. A lot of the information is available online, but I’ll try to quickly summarize it for those who haven’t been following along very closely.
My name is Andrew Abbass. I’m a Canadian. I was born and raised in Happy Valley-Goose Bay in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. My parents were teachers on Wing 5, the American-turned-Canadian military base in Labrador. I was born at the Grenfell Hospital on the base. I went to Mother Goose nursery, then St. Michael’s, a grade school under the RC Board across the street where my parents taught. I went to high school at Goose High. All of these buildings were located within a kilometer from each other. They’ve all been torn down. None of them exist at all anymore.
What does still exist are all the connections I’ve made with the family, friends, classmates, teachers, professors, doctors, nurses, optometrists, recycling depot operators, pharmacists, computer technicians, car wash operators, tree planters and community radio aficionados I’ve met during my time walking around on this blue marble floating in space.
These people have watched me grow and develop through school and go off to university. They watched me perform ‘The Cremation of Sam Mcgee’ in a junior high poetry slam while sweating to death inside a full set of winter gear. They’ve seen me sorting their recyclables with a smile, simply enjoying the feeling of turning one man’s trash into another’s treasure. They’ve watched me work like a dog dragging trays of trees off the beaten path of Pynn’s Brook into the woods so others could earn their daily bread one year, then join them in planting trees the next.
Just because my family name is ‘Abbass’ doesn’t mean my family doesn’t have deep roots both in Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada. If you go down to the Newfoundland Emporium on Broadway in Corner Brook and check out the family name register they have on display, you’ll see my family name at the top of the list. Says it means stern. We’ve been here a while.
My father comes from Cape Breton and is the son of a Lebanese barber who fought against Nazism and the Axis Forces in World War 2. His mother was descended from Scottish farmers and sea captains who built their families around Minasville, NS in the Bay of Fundy. She was also ‘stationed overseas’ during WW2, although for her that meant being in PEI.
My mother’s background is even more varied. She brings together a long history of families from Newfoundland and America. Her family tree research shows that we had family on both sides of the American Civil War, the Boston Tea Party, the War of 1812 and a host of other conflicts. She’s also got some native blood on her father’s side as well. With the number of times her family fought amongst themselves during the history of making her, it’s a miracle her ancestors survived long enough to produce her to be my mother, meet my father, and help him raise me to be the man I am today.
I don’t want to dig too much into family details or my own personal history, but I just want it known that I had a wonderful family life and upbringing with an exceptional extended family and some great friends. People who still understand the meaning behind the words ‘Family Values’ that others in the political arena toss around to win elections. Every chance at growth, development and education that could be provided was on offer.
As a result, I always done my best to be a good upstanding citizen and uphold the law, although I may have an overdeveloped sense of justice. I do smoke pot, but have a medical condition that it remedies. Prior to a few consciousness expanding realizations of the last year, I always considered it to be a victimless crime. I buy it, I smoke it, I get restful sleep and I feel better. No harm done to anyone, right?
The problem is that this isn’t necessarily true. The pot had to come from somewhere and the money ends up in someone else’s hands. Not knowing where it originates from leaves the door open for it to be coming from any criminal element interested in supplying it. It could be funding a gang of Hell’s Angels, some white supremacists, a terrorist cell, even human trafficking. You don’t know where that money goes once it’s left your hand other than back up the chain into mystery. The pot you’re buying could be funding the trafficking of more harmful drugs back into your own communities.
This creates a serious problem.
Unlike alcohol, which has no real medicinal value other than as a disinfectant, cannabis has an exceptionally long list of medical conditions that it benefits. Everything from stress, high blood pressure and chronic pain to nausea, glaucoma and cancer sees a benefit. There is a distinct need in society to obtain a source of natural organic relief that produces minimal side effects and has a long history of therapeutic value that spans our shared cultural history. Anyone who denies the therapeutic benefits of cannabis is beginning to sound as ignorant as those people denying global climate change as an actively occurring process. They may, in fact, be the same ignorant people. Time will tell.
Instead, there is an insistence and a belief that the first course of medical treatment in the modern world must be signature magic pills. Magic pills developed through esoteric patented processes that leave a person with a host of side effects that must then be remedied through other magic pills. It is the pipe dream of a madman. Instead of addressing the root causes of health issues in modern society, be they mental or physical, we allow pharmaceutical companies to draw a veil over our eyes. These doctors have been indoctrinated as high priests into the cult of the magic pill since Med school. They are plied with gifts and promises that their patient will be able to switch to a newer better pill with fewer side effects… in the future… once they work out the kinks… and it’s been approved. It is no longer a science at this point, it is now a blasphemous religion designed to imprison people within their own bodies.
They stop treating patients like people with friends and families and lives and start seeing them only as a set of disorders to be remedied with their toolbox of pills. It’s like putting a Band-Aid over the gaping wound after being shot in the stomach. Or having your mechanic fix the brakes of your truck with duct tape, clothespins and spit instead of manufacturer certified parts. It leaves you primed to break down further in the future in a manner which could be life threatening.
However, we blithely continue on down the road towards the pill-shaped prison. We remain unaware that just because someone has been granted the title of ‘Doctor’ by a school of thought doesn’t mean they know how to make you well.
In the case of psychology and psychiatry, we have a group of people that may have an exceptionally keen eye for categorizing symptoms, but when it comes to issues like the ties between mental and social health, they ignore root causes completely. Instead, they rely on their toolbox of magic pills to mask the symptoms as best as possible to try to fit the person back into the hole they’ve created in their life. They play God with people’s lives in a manner befitting the worst Nazi medical experiments of history, but completely unaware of their actions. To quote a famous Jew from a few thousand years ago, “Forgive them Father, they know not what they do.”
I had a sharp reminder of that this past Fall when I almost lost my favourite Aunt. A change in doctors led to rapid changes in the dosage of her prescribed medication and then her personality. These kinds of things happen all too often in our overworked system. It’s not always the fault of the doctors, it’s just how each doctor’s time with each patient is limited and mishandled by the bureaucracy above them. They may be struggling to do the best in a system that simply overburdens both themselves and the patients. A system which forces them to suffer through inordinate wait times for the most simple of procedures which end up dehumanizing both the doctor and the patient.
Before I get too far off topic, I was talking about marijuana and its benefits. As the readers of this blog may know, I have been charged by the RCMP for the production of a controlled substance. For the last two years I have been conducting research using insects to produce a fertilizer and soil amendment that also acts as an immune stimulant. I’ve grown mint, aloe, snapdragons, dill, cilantro, garlic, vines, collards and sunflowers indoors under lights of my own devising. I also have a grapevine with a 6 foot spread growing in a 2 gallon pot of soil.
I’ve been building my research into a business with the help of people associated with Grenfell University. I’ve also got a number of other research projects on my plate. One is about using dihalogenated acetates in seaweed to restore mitochondrial function in cells. It relieves built up oxidative stress which is the prime trigger of a number of human illnesses, including all aging related illnesses. These compounds even directly address what makes cells become cancerous. But that’s another story for another day. There are a few blog posts about it on this site, you just have to read back a while. I hope to get back to work on it once the RCMP returns the electronic devices they’ve taken from me. I have a meeting with a research associate involved with the project this week and have a sample still sitting in storage waiting for examination. At least we have that much.
Back to the pot.
I suffer from severe obstructive sleep apnea due to enlarged tonsils so I can’t sleep on my back. I’ve apparently had it most of my life, but wasn’t diagnosed until 4 years ago. I’ve tried CPAP. I could take it for a while, but after about a year I couldn’t ‘stomach’ it any longer. CPAP users will know exactly what I’m talking about. I spoke with a local ENT about it and he wanted to perform a major surgery to correct the issue instead of just removing my tonsils. I considered it at first, but the month long recovery time made me say no. Just as well, a girl in the States ended up brain-dead after that same surgery a year later. That doctor has also unfortunately since died of throat cancer so I can’t even go back to discuss other options.
What does work for me is falling asleep in a particular position and sleeping restfully. If I toss and turn I end up on my back and then I stop breathing. My blood oxygen levels drop dangerously low, my heart rate and blood pressure spikes. I wake up without realizing that I’ve woken up, gasp for air for a while then fall back asleep in the same position. Repeat. I wake up exhausted and in a daze that leaves me mentally and physically drained and unable to focus on simple daily tasks like doing the dishes or laundry. Basically I’m the Elephant Man, but with the elephantiasis only affecting my tonsils. If either of us falls asleep on our backs we’re in trouble.
Pot remedies the issue for me.
With a properly selected strain, I simply rolled a joint or packed a bowl in my bong, Dr. Frankensuess, before bed. Lying down in the recovery position you’d put someone suffering from alcohol poisoning in, I can sleep peacefully through the night. If I happen to roll over and wake myself up after a short restful period, I simply take another toke from my bong and go back to bed. It provides for relief and a restful night’s sleep that I haven’t been able to obtain through any other offered method.
If I was in BC, I’d be able to get a prescription easily, but in Newfoundland the doctors are very nervous about getting involved in the process. Unlike the pill pushers who work for the pharmaceutical industry as drug dealers, marijuana growers and users have few people able to openly lobby for unshackling this medicinal plant from the criminal element that controls it in this province. This appears to be where I’ve stepped into that picture, although my story is much more complicated.
As I’ve stated previously, my research has been into developing processes built around insects. They’re basically lab workers capable of performing their function every moment of their lives not spent in an egg or pupating. They produce an amendment rich in the plant immune stimulant, chitin, the application of which triggers an infestation response from the plant. This trigger turns on the cellular defense mechanisms of the plant, increasing the rate of water and nutrient uptake and the efficiency of photosynthesis, as well as increasing the blooming and fruiting potential of the plant. This research has long term application in ensuring food sustainability not just for the Island of Newfoundland, but anywhere in the world.
While my initial research involved mostly mint plants, which made some excellent tea, in January of 2014 I decided to investigate its potential use on marijuana plants. I wanted to be able to study how the genetics of a single plant would be affected by the amendment my lab assistants were producing. I sprouted a number of seeds I’d been given of my favorite strain, green crack, and selected the four most vigorous of them for experimentation.
I took the first few months to train and bonsai the plants to keep them small and make them capable of supporting a high number of clones. When I started taking my first few clones to test their rooting potential, I was using a bubbler bin that I’m currently using to produce clones of my grapevines. I sexed the plants and determined I had lucked out and gotten four female plants to work with. I spent months studying the characteristics of the clones, with the ones that successfully rooted in the bubbler making their way into the 16 ounce solo cups that would be their final home. I studied the growth and flowering characteristics of each plant through their clones, how they responded to different environmental stresses, and how they responded to varying levels of application of my fertilizer. After over 6 months in the selection process, I decided on a single plant with the best flowering and rooting abilities. During this time I also developed a very simple small scale drying process using clothespins and paper bags. Up until this point I wasn’t producing enough marijuana to supply a single person with a regular medicinal supply.
I flowered off the remainder of the plants as they lacked the vigor of the plant I’d chosen, dubbed Green Monster or Lillian. I also decided to re-vegetate one of the other mothers, Vanilla to see if I couldn’t increase its rooting potential. It had some of the best flowering characteristics, but had the worst record for clones surviving the cloning process. I don’t even use rooting gel in my methods, relying simply on a clean environment and natural processes. I figured I’d give it another shot to see if I noticed any improvement.
While all of this was going on, I was doing my best to get my research business off the ground. I had contacts within Grenfell University, but they were stuck waiting for their lab to be finished and made available for use. I had financier interest, but no location to start my business. Instead of worrying about what I couldn’t get done at the moment, I kept my mind on what I was able to do.
After 9 months of experimentation, including much trial and error with a variety of light sources and ventilation methods, I settled on a single plant line to experiment, including a redesigned flowering tent that used LEDs for lighting and had a homemade odor reducing ventilation system. Even then I was still only growing tiny plants in cut down 1 gallon water jugs. I let plants vegetate a little larger at this stage, but quickly ran into problems with them not liking their roots being so constrained and crowded, so I had to step up to a larger container size.
I ended up settling on a mix of square and rectangular pots that gave me 1 and 2 gallons of soil to work with and allowed the plants to vegetate a week or two after establishing roots before putting them in to flowering. Green Crack has a short flowering cycle, between 50 and 60 days, depending on the ratio of THC to CDB you’re aiming for at harvest. I used a tie-down method to create a hybrid between a screen of green and a sea of green, but I kept the plants exceptionally small. I wasn’t aiming to traffic in marijuana, just to continue my research and hopefully hit a point where I could stop paying for it from outside sources. They usually don’t have reliable access to a stable strain for consistent delivery of medicinal benefits.
While this was going on, another situation was emerging in my life. The Love of My Life, who I will only refer to as Misha for the remainder of my story, became pregnant around the beginning of November. At first we were nervous about the idea of becoming parents and starting a family. My small business was struggling to find its footing and we weren’t seeing any support for the idea from the local business community or government organizations I’d been working with.
In November, the self-employment assistance I’d receiving to help me get my business started was cut off. I’d been filing requests with them for a whole year trying to have them recognize my sleep apnea as a disability that was having a negative effect on my ability to start a business. Having this acknowledged would have offered me an additional 6 months to get my business off the ground with more assistance during the entire period. Instead, due to ‘budget cuts’ that eliminated the group of people responsible for identifying and resolving issues around worker’s disabilities, no one remaining in the offices was willing to discuss the issue.
I had to borrow extensively from friends and family to keep my own new family afloat during the months of December and January. All of my issues were finally resolved in February after a few calls to the Citizen’s Representative, but not until after months of trying to ask local politicians and bureaucrats for advice on the matter. Threatened with legal action for discriminating against someone with a disability, the local bureaucrats from Service Canada caved and acknowledge that I might have a disability they’d ignored. They requested a note from my doctor that he’d offered to write a year earlier and within a week they’d backpaid me the money that had been withheld.
What went unacknowledged was that my credit cards, rent, student loans and electrical bills went unpaid for a while as I was trying to rectify the situation. I did my best to juggle the money around to keep them all happy while still buying groceries, but having a complete cessation of income while trying to get a business off the ground ended up putting me deep into a financial hole.
Around the middle of January, another worry crept into the situation. Misha, the Love of My Life, has very unique eyes. As the first term of her pregnancy came to a close, she started getting more and more bouts of extreme nausea and had a lot of trouble keeping food and liquids down. Her eye condition added to our worries as the unique shape of her eyes leaves her prone to retinal detachment. This is due to intraocular pressures created by the vomiting. One tough night left her with a temporary gap in her vision that made us both extremely nervous. It’s also an issue for the birth process itself, so it’s never far from our minds.
I started reading into stories of women who used marijuana during pregnancy and still gave birth to perfectly healthy children. I realized that the pot I’d been growing in small quantities for research could help her keep food down and reduce the vomiting. This would help keep both her eyes and the baby healthy. Lacking the ability to secure a simple prescription for such a complicated issue, I made the decision to become ‘a full-blown criminal’. I increased the number of plants I was growing in my bin, attempting to get a much larger harvest to supply our medical needs for at least a month or two until I could make further plans.
I was still 3 weeks away from the first decent harvest when my home was raided by the RCMP for my electronics for uttering threats on Twitter. This unfortunately occurred while I was detained. The RCMP were unable to contact me and took my electronics as they had no other way to determine if I was plotting some sort of secret attack. Instead they’re discovering I’m developing new medicines, technologies and methods to feed people. In the words of Mick Jagger: “You can’t always get what you want.”
In the week since I’ve been released from the hospital, I’ve had to resort to the traditional criminal methods to obtain medicinal relief. These include buying supplies from people who also have police officers in their family and are supplying to other people who have medicinal reasons, like cancer, for using marijuana. But these people are still considered criminals by a system created to benefit legal pill pushers. Dealers who push drugs with side effects like suicidal or homicidal ideation onto unwilling people. There is something very sick and wrong with our current society that needs to be healed sooner rather than later.
I wanted to tell this portion of the story before moving onto the next section about the specific tweet that got me pulled in. I think it helps explain why Don Dunphy’s story, that of a disabled outspoken activist and family man who was growing and using marijuana medicinally, resonated so strongly with me.
Don’s story could easily have been my story.
There but for the grace of God go I.