Jamie Hagel knows drugs can ruin lives. She’s worked in the area of addictions for more than a decade and helped set up harm reduction programs in Saskatoon’s inner city.
She never knew Crohn’s disease would take her down a path that would result in police charging her with trafficking marijuana.
“I am not a drug trafficker, nor I am a threat to this community,” Hagel said in an interview.
She was one of four people arrested during a police raid on the Saskatchewan Compassion Club last October. Last week, she pleaded not guilty to charges of trafficking and possession of proceeds of crime.
Police and prosecutors say the medical marijuana dispensary was operating outside the legal framework for dispensing medical pot and the people there were breaking the law.
Because of the pending court case, Hagel would not go into detail about what she was doing at the club on the day of the raid.
She was, however, using medically prescribed marijuana to combat Crohn’s disease. Cannabis oils saved her life, she said.
“I got my life back.”
Hagel has battled the disease for more than two decades, but the symptoms got worse and worse in recent years, she said. She was prescribed drugs — everything from steroids to opioids — but nothing helped.
She was a reluctant user of prescription marijuana at first because her years of experience in addictions work made her skeptical of it, but eventually her weight dropped 95 pounds and she feared she wasn’t going to survive, she said. That’s when she gave in and tried medical pot.
“I didn’t care what people would think of me anymore. I just didn’t want the constant, chronic pain.”
She knows other people are suffering since the dispensary closed and has heard from clients who were wondering where to obtain the drug on the street from dealers, she said, adding it’s not a criminal issue.
“It’s politics and it’s sad.”
Hagel said she was eventually able to get her medicine from an online distributor, but the process is cumbersome. The extracts have to be shipped by bus and the prices are higher than the dispensary charged.
She said she hopes the system changes sooner rather than later so that people like her won’t have to suffer. She also hopes that by pleading not guilty, her full story will come out in court.
The four people charged with trafficking and other related charges in connection with the dispensary are due back in court April 7. Police would not comment on the case because it’s before the court.