Grand-daddy of guerrilla lawyers guns for medical ganja

John C. `The Engineer` TurmelJohn C. `The Engineer` TurmelAcross the country, medical users were bullied, battered, arrested and jailed by hostile police officers bent on upholding the failing drug-war regime. By last year, it became apparent that the section 56 program was a hopeless failure as only about 200 of Canada’s hundreds of thousands of medical cannabis users had been granted ministry-of-health exemptions (under section 56) to use the herb legally. Hundreds were stuck in the process, some of them had waited years for approval with no reply. Many medpot patients have been raided by police while awaiting their exemptions, leading to speculations that someone at the ministry might be passing applicants’ names to the RCMP.
“We come out into the open to ask for exemptions and now we’re targets for the cops,” said John Depuis, a medical cannabis user whose grow was raided two years ago.

Some medpot patients who had already received their exemptions were indirectly harassed by police, who investigated their cannabis suppliers after Health Canada leaked a list of exemptees’ names to the press. Still others, like Grant Krieger of Alberta and Terry Parker of Ontario, refused to apply for an exemption, arguing that it was their constitutional right to use cannabis to treat their illnesses.

Then, on July 31, 2000, the Ontario Court of Appeal agreed with Parker, and gave the Canadian Government one year to change the country’s marijuana laws. The court threatened to declare the laws null and void if the job wasn’t completed on time. What the ruling meant was that the existing “section 56” program ? which allowed medical pot users to apply to the minister of health for an exemption from pot laws ? would be scrapped and replaced with new laws that guaranteed medical pot users access to their medicine of choice. No one knew what these new laws would be, or if the government would even make the deadline. Still, the heartless beatings and arrests continued; Cannabis Culture heard reports from medical user Robert Neron (aka Bob Day James), who despite searing upper back and neck pain had his arm twisted behind his back, and James Guerten who was punched in the face by a pig during a raid on his medical pot grow (see CC#31).

The Three Pot-keteers

Meanwhile, medical-cannabis users still waiting for their exemptions ? like Robert Neron, Barry Burkholder and Johnny Dupuis ? became angry and organized. With the help of John C Turmel, they stormed into federal court on April 3 and demanded to have their exemptions granted to them immediately. The judge refused to hear the three cases that day but agreed to hear them on April 12, acknowledging that there was some urgency in the matter.

All three had been raided by police for growing medical pot, and all three have serious medical conditions. Neron suffers from a rare condition known as Distonia, which means that his neck is constantly craned back as far as it can go, and shoulders elevated as far as they can be. “I haven’t seen my penis in years,” he complained. He also suffers from chronic pain, muscle stress, nausea and fatigue. Burkholder lives with Hepatitis C, and Dupuis suffers from chronic pain caused by a criminal assault.

John C Turmel has been described as the “grand-daddy of guerrilla lawyers.” Although he doesn’t have a law degree (he has a degree in science), he has gained extensive knowledge of the system from fighting banks, and is now using that knowledge to make gains for medical pot users. Turmel’s many exploits have been recorded in “Great Canadian Characters” and include professional gambling, teaching game theory at Carleton University, and holding the Guinness Book world record for losing the most elections 54 in total.

Turmel’s argument is that the courts should not be allowed to interfere with a doctors prescription for medical pot by delaying the approval of a section 56 exemption.

“We’re hoping the judge will compel Health Canada to deliver the exemptions right away,” said Turmel. “On March 15, in the [Marc] Paquette case, the last judge said that Health Canada bureaucrats should not interfere with renewals [of section 56 exemptions that have expired]. He was actually yelling at Health Canada officials for exposing Paquette to mischievous arrest and prosecution. Paquette was paid $150 dollars for his troubles. In the cases of Neron, Burkholder and Dupuis, we want this next judge to say that Health Canada should not interfere with approvals. Doctors took an oath to deliver the best treatment, and when he wrote down the best treatment on the prescription form, and it was cannabis, there is no way health Canada should interfere with that.”

Timothy J. McClemont, the executive director of the Hepatitis C Society of Canada agrees with Turmel, and wrote a stunning letter on behalf of Burkholder, chastising the Ministry of Health for creating “barriers” to Burkholder’s access to medical marijuana.

Turmel is looking for others to join his battle for doctor’s rights: “If anyone can make it to Ottawa by Thursday at 9:30am, who has applied for an exemption and not received it, if they can show up with 20 dollars, then we can get them in front of a judge to find out why the delay.”

Ministry faces criminal charges

If his motions fail, Turmel says he will file criminal charges against Health Canada. “That would be construed as assault against a group, which is handled by Section 318(2b),” wrote Turmel on an internet discussion forum, “against deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction.” By which he means depriving patients of their cannabis medicine. “Filing the charges with a JP [Justice of the Peace] in your jurisdiction is free,” noted Turmel.

Turmel doesn’t believe that Health Canada’s proposal of new regs for medical cannabis patients will make the situation any better.

“Though [it]sounds great, there’s a nefarious motive behind it. Licensing a hundred providers for the hundred approvals they expect this year lets them bust all the compassion clubs as no longer necessary,” wrote Turmel. “[And] hundreds of thousands more may apply but real access will be the same 100 per year that they approved over the last 2 years.”

“If we win our case they will have to entirely rewrite the new regs anyway,” he later told Cannabis Culture.”

Turmel believes that the more medical pot applicants that join him on April 12, the better his chances of succeeding.John C. `The Engineer` Turmel


John C. Turmel: (613) 728-2196; email [email protected]; website