In mid-September, members of the locally-based medical marijuana patient advocacy group M.E.N.D. (Mother Earth's Natural Design) participated in a 262-kilometre awareness walk from Peterborough, Ontario to Parliament Hill.

M.E.N.D. members joined other patient advocacy groups in supporting the walk, which has been undertaken by Peterborough-based Jennifer Collett for the past four years. Collett is the vice-president of the Canadian Medical Cannabis Partners advocacy group.

Collett told The Independent that the annual walk is all about the patients, their needs, and impressing upon governments the need for dignified access to medical cannabis.

“This walk is in every moment driven by the need of the people. Every community and its need is different, and the people from the community know their needs and how to meet them,” explained Collett. “When a government, from any level, is violating the rights of the people who elect it, while also ignoring the needs of those people to further its own agenda, it has crossed the line from a service to a harm. When a people ask that their charter rights be upheld, to the same standard as the laws that feed the budgets of the community services, and they are refused - the government has willingly and negligently created harm. No law is created to do harm, laws are created to mitigate possible harm.”

Meaford resident Rob Mahy participated in the walk, which took ten days to complete, and he told The Independent that from start to finish, the response from the public they met along the way was entirely positive and supportive.

“We had cars honking in support as they passed us, we had people join us in the walk or bring us water,” said Mahy.

Mahy said that several people shared their own personal stories including one woman who, after joining the walk talked about her success in using cannabis oil to help treat her cancer, and she claimed that her tumour had shrunk by half after four months of use.

Collett, who lives in Peterborough where the walk began, said that the members of M.E.N.D. who participated are a special group of people.

“That community in Meaford, and the people within it are survivors. The history of the land and the communities there, show resilience and ability - like they did in the past with their industry. The people are real, and hands-on with each other, more like a family than a bunch of people residing in a geographic area. This is a compassionate community, where the people all work together for the greater good, and this is exactly what is required for the Dignified Access model to work,” explained Collett. “The people of Meaford were especially important to this initiative, because in every step they have shown why and how this model works, while the detractors were yelling that it could not be done. I personally watched the people of this community grow stronger with the knowledge that groups like M.E.N.D. shared.”

While the acceptance of medical cannabis has grown significantly in recent years, politicians aren't always eager to mirror that support, and as in previous years, when the walkers arrived at Parliament Hill, there were no members of Parliament willing to meet with them.

“They ignored us again. Showing the government's lack of ability to manage this very important Canadian issue, right before a federal election. The walking team was made of many patients and caregivers who wanted to see this proposal implemented,” explained Collett.

As more and more communities come to understand the medical benefits of cannabis and the need for dignified patient access, Collett is hopeful that the same understanding will be found by members of parliament.

She expressed thanks for the Meaford and area residents who made the long journey with her.

“The people from Meaford were the main chase team, and are who kept us all safe on the road - not surprising. Some walked for us all, suffering the blistering heat of dozens of kilometres, in order to add to the growing voice that is asking for compassionate and dignified access to the medicine that we have seen working,” said Collett.