Icelandic woman stands accused in one of Denmark's most talked about drug cases

Málfríður Þorleifsdóttir, an Icelandic woman who stands charged of manufacturing ...

Málfríður Þorleifsdóttir, an Icelandic woman who stands charged of manufacturing chocolate drops laced with cannabis oil. Photo/mbl.is

"I broke the law for my father," says Málfríður Þorleifsdóttir who is a defendant in one of Denmark's most talked about drug cases which involves the production and sale of cannabis oil for medicinal purposes. 

"I've always been a law-abiding person and I never expected to be in this situation. I'm not a criminal," says Þorleifsdóttir speaking to mbl.is. She is now standing trial, along with four other people at the Holbæk district court in Denmark and if they are found guilty they could face years in prison. 

The background of the story is when Þorleifur Guðmundsson, Þorleifsdóttir's father was diagnosed with cancer of the stomach and esophagus in February 2014. The medicine he received did not do anything to lessen his pain and discomfort. He started to look at alternative options on the internet and read a lot of articles on cancer patients using cannabis oil to ease their pain with good results. 

Guðmundsson told his daughter that he would be interested in trying cannabis oil for pain relief. He was living in Iceland and she was living in Denmark where the substance was much easier to obtain. "My father had cancer of the stomach and he couldn't hold anything down. As soon as he ate something he vomited. I found it hard to be asked to something illegal but at the same time I didn't hesitate for a second when he asked me. I would have done anything to make him feel better."

Þorleifur Guðmundsson, a fisherman, died in 2014 from cancer.

Þorleifur Guðmundsson, a fisherman, died in 2014 from cancer.

 Þorleifsdótitr says that she grew up being to told to stay clear of drugs, also cannabis. Her father's request came as a real surprise. "My parents had really strong views on drugs and I'm sure my dad never tried any drugs before using cannabis oil for the last months of his life."

When her father spoke to her about the cannabis oil, Þorleifsdóttir began to research the effect of cannabis on cancer patients . "But I was completely naive," she says and knew nothing about cannabis until then. "There are so many emotions connected to this. Here we had a man whom I loved very much, who had a deathly and painful disease, and here I was on my way to break the law. I searched for a long time until I found a good product, I sent it to dad and it was the only thing that eased his pain."

Þorleifur died in the latter part of 2014 and she says that the use of cannabis oil made his last months and hours of life much more bearable. Þorleifsdóttir purchase the oil from a Dane called Claus Nielsen, nicknamed Moffe, who is now also standing trial in the same case. Þorleifsdóttir says that Nielsen began producing cannabis oil from cannabis plants when his daughter became sick from cancer. The oil was the only thing that eased her pain. The family started purchasing the oil from the free state of Christiania in Copenhagen but it was so expensive that Nielsen started to produce it himself for his daughter. Later he began selling it to other patients and that's how he came to know Þorleifsdóttir. 

They decided to begin a cooperation on producing cannabis chocolate which Þorleifsdóttir made in her own kitchen, sold through a Facebook page called Moffes and a website of the same name. "We were careful to sell it only to cancer patients, never to people who were using it to get high, as it's obviously much cheaper to simply smoke cannabis if a high is what you're after."

Claus „Moffe“ Nielsen , the "cannabis man from Holbæk."

Claus „Moffe“ Nielsen , the "cannabis man from Holbæk." Screenshot /dr.dk

The production and sale of cannabis oil in Denmark is illegal, just as it is in Iceland. Police in Denmark stopped the production by Þorleifsdóttir and Nielsen in September 2016. Both were arrested along with three other people and charged with major drug offences which could cost them up to ten years in prison. The trial began on October 23rd and a judgement is expected to fall in the case on November 21st. 

The case has gained a lot of public and media attention in Danish media on whether cannabis should be allowed for medicinal purposes. The defendants have received a lot of support, both from politicians and various activitst groups who have protested outside the Danish court. 

A number of people who purchased the cannabis chocolate have testified, including parents of children with cancer and leukemia. Last week, Pernille Vermund, leader of Danish political party the New Right took to the witness stand. Vermund had purchased cannabis oil for her mother who was very ill. 

When Þorleifsdóttir was asked why she mixed the oil with chocolate she answers that she had experience in making organic chocolate. By mixing cannabis oil into the chocolate and forming it into small chocolate drops she could ensure that each of them contained the right amount of cannabis. "It's also helps mentally, in that patients don't feel like they're doing something illegal."

"I am not a criminal," says Þorleifsdóttir.

"I am not a criminal," says Þorleifsdóttir.

The group has been charged with selling cannabis oil and cannabis chocolate for 2.7 million Danish kronas between 2014- 16. Asked whether they made any money from this production Þorleifsdóttir says that they did not. "That wasn't the purpose, we wanted to help people. We handed all our documents over to the police and hid nothing."

Þorleifsdóttir explains that she took care of the production of the chocolate drops but didn't take part in the sale or communication with customers. "Our buyers were people with cancer, many of them undergoing chemotherapy and using the oil to counteract the side effects and to increase their appetite. We also sold to people with multiple schlerosis or arthritis. There were a lot of children. For example a five year old girl who had cancer of the womb and was in a lot of pain. The chocolate drops changed her life. Those stories cut into my heart.  Parents who would do anything to make their children feel better, and had to break the law to do so."

She says that she's experienced a lot of prejudice from people close to her because of her involvement in drugs but she tries to not let it affect her. 

She expects a prison sentence but doubts that it will be a heavy one. "I broke the law for my father, I broke the law to help others. I am sure this will all end well."

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