Chris Backer knows pain.
"People who wake up every day and don't hurt have no idea what they have," he said. "I've cried on days when I wake up and don't hurt."
The Lower Sackville resident has suffered with Crohn's Disease since his teenage years. He has spent a great deal of his life in and out of hospitals, and at the height of his illness was taking 12 to 16 pills per day to manage his symptoms and his pain.
"I was in emergency all the time because the pain was just that bad. I would be lying on my side in the fetal position, or throwing up in the tub while sitting on the toilet," he said. "It feels like it's coming out of your ears. You take all these different pills and some of them make you sick or cause other problems too."
Backer said he tried every available medication but found little relief. That all changed eight years ago when he received a license to use marijuana for medical purposes.
He and his physician worked out a dosage that managed Backer's pain in a way he said no pharmaceutical drug ever matched. He smokes and eats his medical grade cannabis at regular dosage intervals throughout the day.
It's the only medication he has taken for years.
"With cannabis I can function ... It was instantaneous because if you're nauseated you can't hold medicine down. I can take a puff and feel better because you can't throw up smoke," he said.
"You can also vaporize it like Vicks VapoRub and inhale the steam of it if you don't want to smoke. Once it kicks in, it takes care of the cramps, settles my stomach and it calms me. I feel better."
Well-spoken and passionate about protecting the rights of Canadians to grow their own medicine, Backer is a member of Maritimers Unite for Medical Marijuana (www.mumm.ca).
That group is one of many banding together for a Feb. 21 nationwide rally to protest the federal government's proposed Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations.
Health Canada is implementing the proposed regulations to "reduce the risks to public health, security and safety of Canadians, while significantly improving the way in which individuals access marihuana for medical purposes."
A new supply and distribution system for dried marijuana for medical purposes would be established and those requiring medical marijuana would have to purchase it through a pharmacy.
Backer believes the move would have disastrous consequences for him and many of the more than 30,000 Canadians who rely on medical marijuana.
He currently grows his own medicine at an affordable price, and said that would all change if the legislation goes into effect and large scale production facilities become the only ones allowed to provide medical cannabis.
"I grow for myself and I am on a fixed income. My costs are about to go up to about $3,000 minimum (a month) if I have to pay the $8.80 a gram the government is talking about, and I can't afford it," Backer said.
"When you look at the Health Canada website, it says what to do if you can't afford it. Go back to your doctor and arrive at a different dose or medicine. I've arrived at the dose and medication already with my doctor. I have already tried everything else."
Backer fears patients unable to afford licensed production facility prices will go without their doctor recommended medication or violate the law to get it.
In 2011, Backer sustained burns to about 85 per cent of his body after a batch of hash oil he was making in a rice cooker overheated and exploded in his basement. While the oil is more potent than the plant and often amplifies its benefits, it is illegal.
"If I could've just gone to the pharmacy to buy the stuff at an affordable price, that wouldn't have happened in the first place," he said. "People will do what's necessary, even when it's risky."
On Feb. 9 at 1 p.m., Maritimers Unite For Medical Marijuana is holding a meeting for medical marijuana licensees and their supporters at the Gottingen Street Library.
In addition to making signs for the national Feb. 21 protest, they'll be working on letters of concern to MPs, developing impact statements, guiding people interested in supporting an injunction and encouraging people to sign a petition.
Halifax NDP MP Megan Leslie helped word the petition and will present it to parliament.
Backer said he and advocates like him are hoping that those who currently don't require medical cannabis stand up and help them in their fight.
"Why do so few have to stand up for so many when those standing up can't really literally stand up much at all?," he asked. "We need help. You never know when it could be you or someone you care about."