Gilles Richard doesn’t harbour any illusions about his disease.
It has latched itself to his lungs, his bones and he fears it will eventually seep its way into his brain. Over time, he says, the sickness will prevail.
“I like to say I just want five good years,” says Richard, a retired physicist. “But it could be three, it could be two. … I won’t take anything for granted.”
Faced with this grim fate, Richard seems unfazed as he sits in the waiting room of the Santé Cannabis medical clinic on Amherst St. in Montreal’s Centre-Sud borough. The 60-year-old wears a suit and tie, he smiles at passersby and offers to chat about topics ranging from molecular biology to the latest episode of The Walking Dead.
Seven years ago, Richard was diagnosed with multi-system sarcoidosis, a rare and incurable genetic disease that causes inflammatory cells to form lumps around vital organs. Richard uses medical cannabis to help manage the chronic pain that’s become a fixture in his life.
Because of provincial restrictions surrounding the drug, however, Richard’s medical insurance won’t cover the cost of cannabis. While marijuana is an increasingly common treatment for chronic pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and dozens of other conditions, the drug exists in a sort of regulatory grey area.