Montreal Compassion Club raided

Pubdate: Sat, 12 Feb 2000Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2000 The Ottawa Citizen
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MONTREAL – Two people who provided marijuana for sick people were charged with drug trafficking Friday as Health Minister Allan Rock said the federal government is a better source of medicinal grass.

The arrests were made Thursday after a search of the Compassion Club, which has chapters in Toronto and Vancouver.

Police had warned the club when it opened in October they would enforce Canada’s drug laws. The club’s doors were locked Friday and a telephone answering machine told callers it would be closed indefinitely.

Marc St-Maurice, 31, and Alexandre Neron, 21, two volunteers at the club, were arraigned on possession and trafficking charges.

They will return to court March 13.

Rock, who was in Montreal to announce increased funding for medical research, wouldn’t comment on the arrests but said he has been trying to expand the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

“I think the better approach is . . that they are given access to marijuana that is safe and clean from a government source,” he said.

Rock said the government has received proposals from potential sources.

“I hope the day will come when the government will be in a position to supply those who on medical grounds justify their needs to use it.”

Ottawa gave 20 people legal permission last fall to grow and use marijuana for therapeutic purposes. But it did not allow them to buy the substance from other suppliers, whose activities are still considered illegal.

Most of the people allowed marijuana suffer from cancer or AIDS. The drug, which is usually smoked, can relieve pain and stimulate appetite.

Montreal police said in a statement they are aware of the therapeutic uses of marijuana.

“We did meet with the people responsible and we did tell them that as long as laws are in effect that restrict the possession of marijuana we were there to enforce the law,” said Montreal police Cmdr. Andre Durocher.

“I don’t think it’s up to the police department to decide which laws we apply or do not apply.”

About 66 grams of the herb were seized from the club, enough for between 150 and 300 cigarettes.

Thirty-three people had doctors’ notes to obtain marijuana for therapeutic reasons while 93 others had been refused.

Jean Drury, a lawyer for the Compassion Club, said police could turn a blind eye if they wanted to.

“It’s not true to say that police can’t exercise some discretion,” Drury told RDI, Radio-Canada’s all-news channel.

Drury said police don’t always arrest those involved in marijuana cultivation. He also cited prostitution as another area where police don’t always act.

Police have the discretion to “proceed or not,” he added.