A recent three-part series by Theresa Simon in the Moose Jaw Times Herald tells the powerful story of Moose Jaw resident Chris Kuntz and his family, and the consequences of his choice to treat severe chronic back pain with medical cannabis. 

Cannabis was a last resort for Chris and his doctor, but one that Chris reports has been much more effective and side effect-free than his previous regime of numerous other prescription medications, which included highly addictive opioids such as fentanyl. Chris says the side effects of those drugs often kept him largely incapacitated and bedridden.*

That all changed when Chris began treating his pain with cannabis. In the article, he states, “I spent three months in bed and most of that time I just couldn’t get out of bed because of all the medication. But now I can do push-ups, I can do all these things now that a year ago I couldn’t and I thoroughly believe that cannabis was the deciding factor.”

He adds, “It’s really been life changing. I won’t take anything else.”

…According to Chris, they effectively terminated his employment shortly after learning he had a prescription for cannabis

Chris and his doctor followed all legal guidelines and requirements to obtain cannabis by mail from Licensed Producer Tilray. But while it appears medical cannabis may have helped relieve Chris’ physical pain, it has greatly complicated his employment situation.

While Chris’ employer accommodated him for 11 months while he was using “conventional” prescription drugs (which, again, included addictive and often dangerous opioids), he alleges they effectively terminated his employment shortly after learning he had a prescription for cannabis.

As Chris says in the article, “If I was on any other medication, I’d be working. I was working on any other medication.” The situation is particularly frustrating for Chris as he claims he now feels much better and is fully capable of working.

The issues of Chris’ former employer’s actions are being litigated. In the meantime, he remains unemployed—unable to pay bills and relying on public assistance. (To help, go to gofundme.com/chriskuntzfamily)

While the Kuntz family’s situation is certainly tragic, it is also—shamefully—not unique. Across the nation, individuals and families continue to suffer from differing interpretations of current cannabis-related laws that are—literally—all over the map. Medical cannabis dispensaries are raided in Saskatoon at the same time they’re popping up like (tolerated) mushrooms in Vancouver.

Medical cannabis use, while legal, is often still so stigmatized that at the very least, it discourages patients from availing themselves of what may be an effective medicine for them. And as we’ve seen so clearly, this fear and misunderstanding also results in appalling situations like that experienced by the Kurtz family.

Obviously, it’s far past time for government to take action to dismantle and discard the still harmful and destructive laws enacted in the failed war on cannabis. To aid in that effort, it is vital for compassionate Canadians to speak out for reason and justice. By bravely sharing their story, the Kuntz family is an example for all of us.

*This struggle with managing side effects is also movingly related in the video Maria’s Story, presented on the Tilray.com website.