A marijuana activist in Iqaluit says police had no right to raid his home and his church and seize the confidential files of his guests.
Ed deVries was arrested on Aug. 18 on charges of possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking after police searched his home. According to a press release, police seized five ounces of various cannabis derivatives including pills, resin, oil and trafficking paraphernalia.
DeVries said he didn’t receive a warrant when police arrived at his door around 8 p.m. He compared the bust as if his home had been “like a crack house in Detroit.”
“They (Police) increased crime that night,” said deVries. “I had all medicines for alcoholics and Oxycontin addicts in this town and police took those and sent them back to the bootleggers and the Oxycontin.”
DeVries said police questioned his guests and his family, but only he was arrested. He said he was in RCMP cells until midnight that night, after being fingerprinted and had signed a promise to appear in court for Oct. 5. That’s when he said he was presented with the warrant for police to search his home.
The warrant authorizes police to search the house for “controlled substance, precursor, property or thing and to seize it between the hours of 9:30 and 11:30 on this the 14th day of August, 2009.”
DeVries said police came at 8 p.m., outside the authorization of the warrant.
The warrant is signed and dated Aug. 14. DeVries said he doubts the warrant even existed at the time of his arrest, and believes it was authorized during or after the operation had taken place.
RCMP could not comment on that because of deVries’s upcoming court appearance on the matter.
However, spokesman Sgt. Jimmy Akavak said a warrant is required before police can search a dwelling-house. He said police can make a surprise entry in cases where the lives of RCMP members might be at risk or where – in a drug-related case – a suspect could potentially flush evidence down a toilet if police stop to ask permission to enter.
DeVries has a certificate of ordination from the Church of the Universe, which considers marijuana to be a sacred healing herb, and a certificate establishing his Iqaluit mission, the Best Plant Believers Mission of Nunavut, in 2006. Both are available online from the church for a fee.
DeVries said the dispensary room of his house where he sells and shares weed with guests should have been considered a holy sanctuary separate from his home, and police should not have searched it even if they had a valid warrant for the rest of his house.
He said he wonders why police conducted the search now, considering he has been distributing marijuana more or less openly in Iqaluit for years.
“Everything was up-front,” he said. “I got nothing to hide. Everyone knows what’s going on.”
Akavak said the operation came out of a tip from a member of the public, followed by police surveillance. He said it was not a lengthy operation.
“As the police, we have to come up with reasonable, probable grounds for a search and lay charges, not what you may hear, rumours, whether or not they might be true.”
DeVries said he deals only with people with legitimate medical problems that marijuana or its derivatives can help with. People who want to buy from him need to have a doctor fill out a document detailing the medical condition they want help with.
On the wall of his “dispensary” room, deVries has a long list of medical ailments he says can be relieved with marijuana, from drug and alcohol dependency to arthritis to bowel problems to AIDS.
“If some 16-year-old kid tells me ‘I have a sore tooth,’ I tell him to take a Tylenol and whine to his mother,” deVries said.
– Article from Northern News Services on September 7, 2009.