A man who has had both his eyes removed due to glaucoma has handed himself into gardaí with a quantity of herbal cannabis in a protest designed to challenge the law regarding the use of the drug for medicinal purposes.
Mark Fitzsimons (30) has been blind for the last five years and believes that by being prosecuted for possession he may be able to avail of free legal aid in order to test legislation.
On Thursday, with the help of his cane and carer, the Dundalk resident presented himself to gardaí with a small quantity of the drug and requested he be charged with possession in order to secure a court appearance.
Gardaí confiscated the substance and issued him with a formal caution. Once a test confirms it is cannabis, Mr Fitzsimons is expected to receive a summons to attend court.
“I am delighted; it went really well,” he said after emerging from the Garda station.
Mr Fitzsimons said he had discovered as a teenager the medicinal effects of the drug and believes it should be made available to others.
“More and more studies show that cannabis can be used and is used and it’s the best form of treatment for it,” he claimed. “I also found out it’s an anti-inflammatory.
“The older I got the more certain I became of it. I remember saying this to people and all they would say is, ‘that’s illegal’.”
He said that while people he spoke to dismissed cannabis as a recreational drug, he had been given prescription pain killers that took him six months to come off when he had his second eye removed five years ago.
Today, he says, he uses it to help alleviate occasional phantom pains.
Glaucoma is a condition that, if untreated, can eventually lead to total blindness. It results from the over production of “aqueous humour” fluid which creates necessary pressure in the eyes. If the fluid does not drain properly, it causes an increase in pressure which can damage the optic nerve.
Mr Fitzsimons believes that aside from alleviating pain, cannabis can be used to treat the condition, not necessarily through smoking, by reducing pressure. He says he may have kept his eyes had it been a medical option.
While his theory is bound to cause debate, his hopes for a legal challenge are designed to do exactly that.
In a pre-prepared statement to gardaí, he said it was his conviction that the drug offers “massive potential benefits” for glaucoma and other serious illness.
“At the moment I can’t challenge the law because I don’t have the money to challenge it and that is the same for most people who have a medical situation,” he said.
After being processed by gardaí he emerged victorious, explaining: “They said when the analysis comes back, if it’s legitimate cannabis I will receive a summons.” He now awaits his day in court.