While pleased that jailed mother Natasha York, 41, has been granted a licence to import medical marijuana, via her GP, to assist with her treatment of seizures, her lawyer Paul Wilson laments if she will be able to survive without it while incarcerated.
Earlier this week, in Bermuda’s Magistrates’ Court, Ms York was sentenced to one year behind bars for importing three pounds of marijuana at the LF Wade International Airport on May 28, 2017. She was ordered to serve three months with the remainder of her sentence to be suspended for one year.
Since 2011 years, the mother of two has been suffering from multiple seizures per day. As a result she has lost her job and her ability to drive. The inside of her mouth bears the scars of the severity of her illness. Her children have witnessed her seizures firsthand, and have had to be her aftercare givers.
Before sentencing her, Magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo heard that the marijuana, which Ms York purchased in Canada was for her personal use. Her actions were out of desperation, said Mr. Wilson of Mastermind Bermuda Law, as she was awaiting her medical licence for products containing THC to be granted.
On Wednesday, Minister of Social Development and Sports Michael Weeks, granted Ms York the licence. However, it looks as if she won’t have access to any treatment until she is released from the Co-Educational Facility and this angers Mr. Wilson.
“The irony is Ms York applied for this licence many months ago, and it is granted two days after she’s been sentenced. Prior to this, I lobbied for her support with very little movement but ultimately if the THC abates her seizures I am happy for her.”
Mr. Wilson says he spoke to Ms York yesterday via telephone and so far she is doing well, saying that the staff at the Co-Ed have been vigilant in trying to make her as comfortable as possible. However, she is afraid to go to sleep out of fear that more seizures may occur. She has already suffered one.
He adds, because it will be highly unlikely that she will be able to use medical marijuana while in custody, he is afraid for her well-being, bluntly saying: “She could die. She should not be there.”
His sentiment is echoed by Ms York’s physician, Dr. Kyjuan Brown.
“I think it’s completely unacceptable for her to be behind bars. I have been informed by her lawyers that she has had a seizure already, and I fear she may have many more without treatment.
Having the permit is one thing. Now we need to get her her medication…”
Reflecting on the judicial system, Dr. Brown continues: “The law is the law, in Bermuda. However, I would have expected the Judge to exercise some form of compassion in regards to this case. Clearly this was a desperate attempt for survival.
“It’s been since October 2016, when we first asked about the process to obtain a license for this patient. Unfortunately, it took Ms York being convicted and sentenced to prison for us to be successful in obtaining her permit. I would like to thank Minister Weeks for being bold and taking this step to help Ms York as well as pave the way for many others who are in need.”
“There are many more Natasha Yorks out here on the island,” adds Mr. Wilson. “At the very least, I hope that this case opens the gates for more discussions around this topic in Bermuda. I’ve had so many people stop me this week over her sentence. They are outraged and confused.”
Mr. Wilson says his firm plans to appeal Ms York’s sentence, however, lawyer Kamal Worrell will handle the appeal.
Editor’s note: SheHub was informed this evening (June 1) by Mr. Wilson that Ms York has been released on bail by the Supreme Court, pending her appeal.