Montreal Pot Users Decry Police Crackdown

Compassion club supporter Marjolaine Despars talks to club operators Marc Bissonnette (from left), Genevieve Simon, Marianita Hamel, and Alexandre Lapointe at the Montreal courthouse yesterday. Photo by Marcos TownsendCompassion club supporter Marjolaine Despars talks to club operators Marc Bissonnette (from left), Genevieve Simon, Marianita Hamel, and Alexandre Lapointe at the Montreal courthouse yesterday. Photo by Marcos TownsendAbout 25 people, including 10 arrested in police raids in June at four Montreal compassion clubs that bill themselves as medical marijuana distribution centres, milled about the Montreal courthouse corridors yesterday discussing the risks in providing pot to manage pain.

Those arrested, including another group in Quebec City, face charges of possession with intent to traffic, trafficking, and conspiracy.

They learned that court hearings are to resume Oct. 4 for those connected to the outlet on Papineau St. and another in Plateau Mont Royal. The Crown is expected to disclose its evidence to defence lawyers then.

Among those arrested was Marc-Boris St-Maurice, founder of the federal Marijuana Party, who pointed to what he considers the irony of current laws -it is illegal to sell pot, but it has been allowed in Canada for medical use for almost a decade.

At the Plateau Compassion Clubs, a diagnosis from a doctor that you suffer from pain, muscle spasms, nausea, weight loss and/or loss of appetite would qualify for membership.

After several years of tolerance by police, St-Maurice blamed controversy over the Culture 420 Compassion Club on 15th Ave. in Lachine for “causing certain waves” and “we got painted with the same brush.”

“We’re sort of collateral damage in this,” in spite of developing “a great reputation” in a decade of operations, St-Maurice added.

The crackdown means people who need pot as an analgesic now depend on the black market, or Health Canada, for their drug supplies.

Gilbert Higgins, who is HIV positive, said he needs marijuana occasionally for pain-reduction and considers his condition is sufficient to qualify for compassionate pot use.

“When I have pain and feel like vomiting, it stops immediately when I smoke marijuana,” he said in the court corridor.

Wearing a button with a diagonal line through the word pain, Eugene Feig of Laval explained he could not get relief from the usual analgesics for acute pain to his spinal cord following an accident in 1997.

He carries a card from Health Canada authorizing him to possess the drug.

Feig said he understands why police felt the need to act, saying some people “out of compassion were not as vigilant as they should have been and they ruined it for everybody.”

The answer is for Health Canada to get more involved in “every step in the chain.”

– Article from The Montreal Gazette.

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