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My life as a political and human rights activist began as a transition from my life as a social entrepreneur which began as a tangent from my life as a pet owner. I broke this section into two parts to give it a full airing of the details. It might be a little much for some people, but I wanted to make sure I’m offering a complete version of what happened that lead me to my current place in life.

In the Summer of 2011, I was recovering from a workers injury that ended my electronics technologist career less than a year after landing the job. I had torn my right rotator cuff while trying to move a several hundred pound battery stack across a tile floor. Both shoulders were damaged, but my right arm was basically hanging off my body. I filed a workers comp form and received authorization for exceptionally strong pain killing medication. I chose to stick to just the anti-inflammatory medication and use pot for the pain as I healed. I was seen by a physiotherapist once and given Doctor’s orders not to do any heavy lifting.

This effectively ended my career with the tech company I was working with. Unable to risk having their project manager further injured, I was placed into a windowless cubicle and given a desk phone. All my work from then on would be tech support and paperwork. As someone who has always enjoyed hands on work, be it computer repair or planting trees, I was unable to adapt to life indoors behind a desk. I had to leave the company as the position I’d been placed in wasn’t what they’d hired me to do. I was left managing groups of repair teams who each earned more money than me and constantly called for advice. Unwilling to be forever squeezed into a windowless box, I left the company and spent the next few months fighting to obtain EI so I could finish recovering from my injury.

In October of 2011, I decided to get a pet dragon. I’d been introduced to Bearded Dragons from Australia through a friend who’d owned one. I’d been researching Australia independently because I’d heard that didgerdoo usage helps alleviate sleep apnea. That same week I saw a 75 gallon aquarium show up on Kijiji along with an ad from a local breeder who had a clutch of month old dragons he was selling. It felt like I was being guided towards having a pet dragon at that point, so I dove into the idea and went up to meet the breeder.

When he showed me a plastic tray with the few remaining dragons he hadn’t already sold, I was struck by how much they looked like tiny dinosaurs. Such tiny little perfect scales, intricate patterns and elegant feet. I put my hand in the bin to reach for one and they all scattered except for one. This little guy showed no fear of me whatsoever despite him being no bigger than my pinky finger. He just stood there with his head back and looked at my hand. This was Merlin and he became one of my most steadfast companions during the next two and a half years of my life. I didn’t realize it, but his influence would transform my life completely.

I drove out to Trout River the following day and bought the aquarium. Then I went to the local pet store picked up some lights and heaters and dry food. Next I brought everything home and set it up, leaving all the lights and heaters running through a full day/night cycle so I could check the temperatures. A little bit of research was required at this point to ensure I’d be able to create a good environment for little guy. If he didn’t have a warm enough place to sit during the day, he wouldn’t be able to digest his food. Once I was certain that the temperature and humidity ranges were suitable for a baby dragon, I drove up to the breeder and picked him up in a shoe box lined with my t-shirts for warmth.

I’d be sharing some pictures of his size for reference at this point, but even my family photos were seized by the RCMP when they took my devices. It’s funny how much value can be stored on one device, which can be unlawfully taken away and peered through by unknown people. They’ll be looking through photos of my nephew dying at 11 days old in a hospital shortly if they haven’t already. Sorry if it got a little dark there, but thinking about Merlin in a shoebox lined with a t-shirt reminded me of burying him the same way last year because I didn’t have the money to take him to a vet. All my pictures of him were taken when the RCMP seized my electronics to try to uncover a terrorist plot. I have a few on Facebook, but I took hundreds if not thousands of them. They’re being used right now to try to compile a psychological profile for someone who doesn’t exist.

Shortly after I got Merlin home and he was settling into his new surroundings, I was confronted by something I hadn’t fully prepared myself for when buying a bearded dragon. While adult bearded dragons eat mostly vegetables and a few bugs, baby Bearded Dragons eat mostly bugs. Tiny, wriggling, squirming, crawling, creeping bugs. Mostly beetle larva, crickets and another high protein species. Considering how far I’ve come and how much interesting research they inspired, I’m surprised at how revolted I was by them at the time. In retrospect, I’m not a big fan of most snakes or lizards either. I only jumped at the idea of a bearded dragon because… hey… I had a pet DRAGON.

This idea was later overturned when I realized that instead of me having a pet dragon, Merlin was being granted a human slave. To keep a bearded dragon healthy, you have to have a rigorous feeding schedule. You should keep their tanks clean of their poops, but make sure to check them occasionally to monitor their health. You have to be able to offer quality greens and discern the high nutritional value ones like collards from the low nutritional value ones like lettuce. Not all greens are created equal. You also have to pick through your feeder insects to make sure you’re not feeding them insects that are too big and may cause impaction. This caused me more grief than anything else. I have no problems baiting a hook with half an earthworm, but darkling beetle larva looked so much like maggots I had an deep aversion to touching them. They seemed so unclean and unnatural, despite the fact that they are eaten as a staple food in a good portion of the world.

As Merlin grew into his full size over the next two years his appetite increased along with him. Live insects are surprisingly expensive and it got to the point where the cost of Merlin’s groceries was a approaching a fraction of my own. To offset this, I decided to try my hand at insect breeding on a small scale. I wasn’t completely comfortable with having insects in my home, but the ones I was working with couldn’t climb smooth plastic, so I comforted myself with the knowledge they couldn’t escape.

They say necessity and politics makes strange bedfellows, but never in my life prior to these events had I imagined sharing a home with a family of bugs. Mice, carpenter bugs, and the occasional earwig are expected when living in an older home, but I never thought I would willingly allow in a family of beetles.

I bought mealworms from the local pet store, gave them a quick rinse to wash the ever-present mites off, then let them pupate into beetles. I set the beetles in a new bin and gave them bran and carrots as a food source. Within a few months, I had a new population of feeder insects for Merlin at a fraction of the cost. I began to think of them as my indoor compost bin for the vegetables that we had left over from our meals.

After about a year of trial and error, I settled into a much cheaper daily routine of taking care of my dragon and enjoyed the presence of such an odd creature from the other side of the world. It was like have a little alien dinosaur in my home that followed my movements like a sunflower follows the Sun. Taking care of such a small and unique creature added a depth to my life that didn’t exist prior to the fall of 2011.

I spent the winter doing point of sale repairs and installations for a temp agency operating out of Ontario. They made a habit out of billing their customers much more than their employees were getting, but that’s the nature of these kinds of shyster agencies and their contracts and I still needed to earn enough to live on. I went back to physical labour the following Spring doing landscaping in Pasadena. My old Boss called me up and offered me the kind of work I enjoy out in the sun, so I couldn’t refuse. I spent a whole summer tearing down a forest of trees on his land, as well as replacing old wooden fences with new metal ones. Having spent the winter trying to bring my shoulders back into working order, this was exactly what I needed to do to be healthy, spending a lot of time working in under the Sun.

By the time the fall of 2012 rolled around, I’d done a decent job of transforming the landscape I’d been working on.  I was still getting the occasional jobs working for the temp agency and my finances were in good order. I had stocks that were doing well and money saved in my TFSA. I had excellent credit and no outstanding bills. I was able to reapply for EI, although at this point I was basically getting less than a $1000 a month to live on.

As the winter settled in, I began to consider my options for work. I wasn’t interested in working for temp agencies for the rest of my life, and didn’t want to end up stuck behind a desk answering the phone. I started looking at the bugs I was raising and began to wonder if they might not give a clue to a direction forwards for my life. I knew that local stores were ordering them from outside Newfoundland, so I began to examine what would be needed to offer a local supply.

As I was trying to figure out what to do, my family was getting ready to experience a period of joy and tragedy. My nephew was born on November 10th, 2012 and it was a moment of exceptional happiness for the whole family. My parents came in and we were all so excited to see him and welcome him into our lives. We didn’t realize at the time how deeply his birth would shake our foundations.

The first moment I held him, shortly after he was born, I had a very mixed experience. As my brother passed him to me from his arms, joy and pride welling up in his eyes, I felt a sense of elation to see my little brother so happy at being a father. When I took his son into my hands though, the first thing I remember feeling was a stabbing pain in my left palm where I was holding him and then breaking out into a cold sweat. I still felt a feeling of joy at holding my new nephew in my hands, but it was tempered by a feeling of unease. At the time, I chalked the stabbing pain in my hand up to being unfamiliar with how to properly hold a baby and the cold sweat to anxiety at holding this fragile new bundle of joy in my hands.

I spent some time with the new Mommy and Daddy and my new nephew, then left them alone to get some rest, knowing I’d see more of them when they were released. They came home a few days later to a welcoming party that brought together both sets of grandparents to marvel at newest addition to their next generation.

Our joy was cut short when my nephew’s health took a turn for the worse. Despite repeat visits to a public health nurse regarding a jaundiced look he was presenting, they assured my brother and his wife that everything was fine. The last moment of peace we would have for a long time happened as they took him to the hospital to treat his jaundice with light therapy. By the time they’d arrived, his hold on life was beginning to fail due to an undiagnosed heart condition.

Affecting one in every thousand babies, my nephew had a condition known as a coarctation of the aorta. The blood flow to the lower portion of his body was suppressed by a tiny pinch in the lower half of his aorta that runs to his liver and kidneys. As those organs struggled to deal with the reduced blood pressure and building levels of toxins, his heart rate and blood pressure were increasing to try to raise the lowered blood pressure below the pinch in his aorta. This caused the blood pressure in the upper half of his body to increase and put too much stress on his heart. It could have easily been remedied in the womb through simple surgery, or with an injection that relaxes the smooth muscle walls followed by a minimally invasive procedure that opens up the pinch.

I know now that these symptoms are easily diagnosed from birth without any special medical equipment. Simply feeling the difference between the strength of the distal pulse at the wrists and the femoral pulse at the groin will identify the condition. It’s a simple test that takes moments and could easily save lives, but it’s not one of the current protocols for dealing with newborn babies in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Unfortunately, the doctor in the pediatrics ward where he was brought for treatment didn’t do this check either. He saw a baby experiencing a rapid decline in health and jumped to the conclusion that he was suffering from an infection instead of a heart condition. Despite being born in that wing days earlier, he couldn’t get immediate access to my nephew’s file which would have shown other symptoms of his heart condition, like his high heart rate at birth, and he might have reacted more appropriately. However, this information wasn’t readily available electronically and he treated him for infection instead, relying only on his initial assessment.

The first course of treatment when dealing with someone presenting with symptoms of an infection is to rehydrate them. Unfortunately for my nephew who was experiencing a cardiac crisis due to the inability of his kidneys to properly cleanse his blood and regulate blood pressure, this mistake would cost him his life. Increasing his blood volume without allowing his kidneys to restore the proper balance deepened his cardiac crisis, spiked his blood pressure further and ended up causing brain damage.

I won’t go into further detail on this matter, but in the week that followed my extended family travelled back and forth across Newfoundland and Nova Scotia to try to get my nephew some treatment. The hospitals we dealt with did a good job trying to come up with a million reasons why he’d suddenly taken ill. Genetic issues, infection, abnormal metabolism… they threw reason after reason at us until finally revealing they’d found the root of his heart condition. At that point the damage had already been done and he was barely clinging to life. He was removed from life support and passed on November 21st 2012 in the arms of his loving parents.  I can’t remember crying that hard at any other point in my life. To see someone so innocent, so free of any of the sins of this world, snuffed out after momentarily bringing such joy into our lives… it struck me as a crime against God.

I wasn’t until after we arrived back home, the house still covered in welcome posters and banners from the week before, that I began to think over what had happened. At this point we knew he had a coarctation, which was treatable, but didn’t realize the magnitude of mistake which had been made that first night. I contacted some nursing friends of mine and explained what had happened. They confirmed that the last thing a baby experiencing a cardiac crisis should be treated with is saline. A baby’s blood pressure is a very delicate thing. They’re so very, very fragile. Once they’d injected him with the saline, that very first treatment offered to a baby they thought to be experiencing infection, he was done for.

I spent some time trying to explain it to my family members individually, but they were still largely in a state of shock. That all came to a head one night when my brother’s wife logged into her work email account and found a letter from an anonymous source at the hospital. They’d been trying to contact her for the past week. The letter explained that the cardiologist had made a mistake and that my nephew would have been perfectly fine and healthy had it not been for that error they were now trying to cover up.

After a period of confusion, I had to be the bearer of bad news and tell them what I’d learned. Imparting to them such a shocking truth after going through such a twisted experience was hard on the whole family. We were all still in a state of disbelief, but I couldn’t leave this letter from an anonymous person hanging in the air. The family was so upset that more questions immediately began to emerge about what happened. It needed context. My background in biology is more extensive than my family’s, so what came as a natural understanding to me was foreign to them.

We agreed not to discuss it further. This may be the only time I speak this openly on the subject matter. I just want to further clear the air and illustrate that doctors are just as fallible as the rest of us. They’re prone to the same errors of judgment when presented with incomplete information. And just as prone to denying making mistakes to save themselves and prevent their authority from ever being questioned.

In the months that followed, I withdrew from my previous activities. I had a period of introspection and spent my last Christmas home in Labrador. We setup a special Christmas tree in our backyard for the nephew that was no longer with us. From then on, Christmas trees will always remind me of him.

After a few months of withdrawn grieving I decided to get my life back on track. I was still working with the temp agency, but also interested in starting my own business. I approached the local community development corporation with my idea surrounding insect production several times during this period and was rejected or ignored each time. I kept working on the idea and early in the Spring a friend asked me for a ride up to Canadian Tire to buy some fertilizer for his plants. I offered him a sample of what my mealworms were producing and the rapid results amazed us. I went back to the drawing board and began thinking up a plan to pair this fertilizer source with organic agriculture. It offered a means of establishing a business that created value-added products with no wasted byproduct. Everything that went into the business came back out as a higher value product, I just needed to formalize the idea.

In the summer of 2013, following a few weeks of meetings with the Navigate Entrepreneurship Center, I had the business concept fleshed out. I submitted it for review by Service Canada and the local community development corporation. It took 3 months for them to finally approve the idea. Total time trying to get into the process to be able to work on my business plan? 10 months.

During the approval process I met Misha and we’ve been almost inseparable ever since. It’s been a difficult road for us as so much of my money has been invested in an idea. The lack of local development opportunities has been stifling progress and leaving us struggling to make ends meet, even without exceptional circumstances arising to cause further conflict.

Shortly after being approved for self-employment assistance in November, my old apartment developed a leak in my roof over my bed due to a failed renovation that left heat pouring into my attic. Experiencing a complete disruption in my home life, my sleep apnea took over as my most pressing health situation. Having an absentee landlord who only bought the place from my previous landlord to earn some cash, he had little interest in spending money to keep the place livable. When I raised the issue as something that couldn’t be waiting on until spring, he served me with an eviction notice. Unwilling to deal with a landlord that would just shirk his responsibilities and wait until I moved out, I took the eviction as offered and moved out, letting him know on Christmas Eve that I had vacated the place. Dick move, I know, but I had just suffered through over 3 weeks of unhealthy sleep and was looking forward to getting some proper rest. I still paid full rent for the month of December.

Moving into the new place was a whole new experience. I had space to start up a lab in the basement, which led to me germinating my first marijuana seeds to experiment with. Prior to this I’d only been working with mint, which was great for tea but not much else. As a plant with a much more rapid growth rate, I’d hope that experimenting with cannabis would teach me how to grow a variety of plants indoors. If my current indoor garden is any indication, it has done that job quite well.

While all of this was new business planning and development was on-going, I had an older project brewing in the background coming to fruition. I’d been researching seaweeds as a source for a mitochondrial enhancer for oxidative stress related illnesses. In May, a quote from a movie inspired a whole new direction into my research that showed the compounds I was researching had played a well-established role in ancient medicines practiced around the world. I used this new knowledge to create a brief YouTube video to complement an earlier one and set up a Thunderclap to try to raise awareness on social media. I spent two weeks campaigning to build up supporters for the campaign and, to be perfectly honest, it came to nothing. Few people cared enough to bother reading the material, so it simply fell by the wayside for most. If you read back far enough in the blog, the information is all still available.

The Thunderclap was my first step at transitioning into from social entrepreneurship into activism. It was also the week that Merlin passed on suddenly. It was a very difficult few weeks. Not as difficult as when my nephew died, but it was still distressing to watch Merlin rapidly get ill and die practically in my hands. I buried him in June and planted some sunflowers over him to keep him company. I planted a little lilac tree over him last fall. I don’t know if the little tree has taken to its new environment, but I’ll be tending it once the snow melts.

The next step in my transition into activism happened a month later, but was shaped by time spent with Misha. She’s spent a portion of her life in Ukraine, so she brought me a unique perspective on the situation that was absent from Canadian news outlets.

While CBC was cheering on the fall of the previous Ukrainian government at the end of February, she was warning me that the people seizing power were those she’d previously identified as far-right extremists. The actions of the new government following the coup illustrated that mentality quite well as they cracked down on dissenters in Eastern Ukraine and tightened their grip on power.

Once Ukraine had conducted their formal elections under the guise of ‘trusted’ Canadian election monitors, the new President quickly legitimized the civil war between West and East Ukraine by declaring the dissidents to be terrorists. He declared a resumption of hostilities against the dissident/terrorists on July 1st, 2014. Canada Day. The Canadian Federal government cheered him on. After studiously ignoring politics for several years, I found myself horrified by the fascist and tyrannical tendencies that were now being displayed by the Canadian government.

As July progressed, other issues began to emerge. In the Middle East, the situation between Israel and Gaza was becoming ugly. Atrocities against children committed by extremist elements from both sides led to the resumption of rocket attacks and an escalation towards war. Like seeing a train wreck in slow motion, I watched both situations in the Middle East and Ukraine with great trepidation. The two situations then converged surrounding a very unlikely series of events that seemed too well-timed to be coincidental.

On the 16th of July of 2014, four children were killed on beach in Gaza. They were killed in full public view of people staying at a nearby hotel and the event drew outrage from media outlets stationed in the area. Israel announced a humanitarian window for the following day to grieve the loss of the children, but kept massing their infantry forces along their border with Gaza. As the humanitarian window was closing on the following day, MH17 was shot down over Eastern Ukraine. While media attention turned to the downed plane and the chaos that was ensuing in Ukraine, Israel launched their all out attack on Gaza.

Some people might not understand the level of brutality used in Israel’s war last summer. They think that all nations have a ‘Right to Defend’, but ignore the fact that the section of the UN Charter they’re using refers to the ‘Right to Defend Responsibly’. This refers to accepting responsibility for civilian deaths in a conflict situation. Accepting responsibility for war crimes committed by overzealous soldiers and for public figures that openly incite discrimination and genocide. Accepting responsibility for training soldiers that no longer see their neighbors as living beings worthy of their respect.

To illustrate the brutality of the conflict, I’m going to discuss some of the munitions used. The rockets launched by Hamas forces are basically homemade. They don’t have a very extensive range and their explosive power is limited. They’re a little scary when they’re aimed at you, but in the last conflict they simply weren’t effective at all. Israel has their ‘Iron Dome’ rocket defense system that lets them shoot down incoming rockets. Gaza has no such defense system.

While Israel has access to some of the most advanced weaponry on the planet, including nuclear weapons, I’m only going to look at a single type of munitions they used for comparison, explosive unguided artillery. Bombs launched like bullets from the ground that have a 300 meter kill radius on open terrain. Used in a city setting, that kill radius becomes much larger as explosive forces bounce off buildings and down city streets. While Hamas launched over 4000 largely unsuccessful rocket attacks against Israel, the IDF launched over 34,000 rounds of explosive artillery alone. This doesn’t count any form of missile or jet attack and also disregards the cluster munitions that were known to have been used in the conflict. It just compares the effectiveness of Hamas’ largely useless rocket brigade against the overwhelming violence of the Israeli response. To call this a case of overkill is to make the understatement of the century.

What came as a greater shock as all this was emerging was Canada’s stance. While we’ve traditionally been seen as Peacekeepers in the region, we abdicated that responsibility publically and sided with Israel. 9/11 was cited at the time as one of the reasons, but the truth is Canadian’s reason for supporting this war is more closely rooted in fear, bigotry and islamophobia.

On the 17th of July, as the world seemed to be descending into chaos with CBC ignoring the deaths and funerals of the four Gazan children from the previous day, I began trying to figure out Canada’s position. I was introduced to a propaganda video released by the Conservative Party to their Israeli supporters on the 16th of July that made me realize how involved Canada had become in instigating this conflict.

In the video, our current Prime Minister and then Foreign Affairs Minister advocate directly for war and genocide. He advises confronting the ‘dark forces’, a dangerous thing to say to an audience of predominantly white people. The quotes used in the propaganda video are taken from his speech before the Knesset earlier in the year. During that same speech our Prime Minister spoke of a ‘sophisticated language of hatred developed in the modern world for use in polite society.’ He used this threatening doublespeak to criticize the Arab delegation present, angering them to the point of leaving. Even back in January of 2014, he was angering and dividing people on racial and religious lines.

Flash forward to July and his same words are again being used to reinforce the idea of settling religious and political differences through force of arms. To me, this was so un-Canadian and wrong I had to speak up. The following weekend I typed up a transcript and analysis of the video, along with a list of charges. I brought it to the local RNC and requested they file charges.

Thus began my life as an activist.

My next post will cover how my forays into political and human rights activism resulted in my detainment on the 4th Floor the Western Memorial Regional Hospital for 6 days.

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.