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York appeals ‘medical marijuana’ sentence

Lawyer Paul Wilson (Photo by Akil Simmons)

A mother of two jailed for importation of cannabis to treat her seizures has lodged an appeal against her sentence.

Natasha York, 41, was sentenced to a year in prison on Monday for bringing in 1,430 grams of cannabis, but magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo suspended nine months of the term.

Lawyer Paul Wilson, who represents York, said her licence to use medical marijuana arrived on Wednesday. Now he has launched an appeal to argue the full sentence should be suspended.

He said: “Ironically she is now incarcerated for attempting to import the very thing she now possesses a licence to have.

“The licence came through on Wednesday morning. I reviewed the licence itself, and it has been taken down to the Co-Ed Facility. Given the unusual circumstances, I would argue the sentence that she should be incarcerated is excessive.”

Magistrates’ Court heard York has suffered intractable seizures and, while she was prescribed high doses of several medications, her seizures continued unabated.

Evidence from Kyjuan Brown, medical director for Northshore Medical & Aesthetics Centre, said cannabis had been shown to stop the seizures.

York applied for permission to import medical marijuana, but was at first refused. Mr Wilson said: “Between when that application was refused and when she made a second application, that’s when she did the act.

“The magistrate must have felt like his hands were tied. At the end of the day, she was guilty of importing a controlled drug. At the time she imported the drug, she did not have that licence.”

Mr Wilson said the initial licence, granted last August, allowed York to use cannabis products with CBD, which reduced the number of seizures.

However, as of Wednesday, Mr Wilson said he was only able to bring her Lamictal and Dilantin, anti-seizure medications that previously failed to improve her condition.

He said: “It was a real horrific situation that she is in, especially when you consider the children have to revive her, or when she’s having a seizure they have to turn her a certain way when she’s sleeping. “It would be dangerous to incarcerate her because she needs someone to be there to make sure during the night she is breathing properly.”

Mr Wilson said York has been given a new licence for medical marijuana to allow her access to drugs with a higher level of THC, which Dr Brown said halts the seizures altogether.

He added: “She was upset on Monday night. I think that was when things were starting to set in, but when I spoke to her after court all she really wanted to know from me was if she could get her medication. That has been my number one priority since then.

“We now have the licence allowing her to bring it in. Once it’s here, it can be administered. The harder part right now is getting the medical grade marijuana from Canada to Bermuda because they are quite strict. They say eight weeks, and they mean eight weeks.”

Dr Brown asked the Government to help York in a letter sent to David Burt, the Premier. He wrote: “We cannot allow this lady to spend one night in jail without her cannabis.”

The letter warned that York could have as many as five or six seizures a day and “will likely suffer irreversible brain damage”.

Dr Brown added: “This is not a case of a recreational user who just likes to get high. This is a case of a mother of two who is desperate to live for herself and her two children.”