Toronto Police Used Violent Force in Compassion Club Raid

CANNABIS CULTURE – Police used violent force in a raid on a Toronto location of the Cannabis As Living Medicine (C.A.L.M.) Compassion Club on Wednesday, and arrested and laid marijuana trafficking charges against several staff members.

“The police barged in and threw people to the ground without warning, without asking to be allowed in and without showing their warrant.,” C.A.L.M.’s attorney Ron Marzel told Cannabis Culture. “They stormed their way in and started throwing patients down and pinning them to the ground. We got it all on video.”

One person suffered whiplash, a concussion, and a fat lip but no one was seriously injured.

Marzel said C.A.L.M.’s owner, known as Neev, and eight staff members were charged with possession for the purposes of trafficking. Each was locked up for over ten hours before being released, and many who are medicinal marijuana patients were denied access to their medicine. The police told staffers they would be released only if they signed a form agreeing not to return to C.A.L.M. until the case is over.

“They made the staff promise, under a recognizance, not to go back to C.A.L.M.,” he said, “and that was the only way they were going to release the staff and allow them to medicate.”

Toronto Police were contacted by Cannabis Culture but refused to make a comment until “after the holiday”.

C.A.L.M. is one of the oldest medical cannabis clubs in Canada, established in 1996. C.A.L.M.’s website states that the organization is a “peer-run organization that provides almost 2,000 Canadians living with severe or chronic illnesses with safe and continuous access to medicinal cannabis in a safe empowering environment.”

Neev told Cannabis Culture that during the raid, officers from 51 Division said they were responding to complaints, but authorities have yet to release any information or disclosures.

“There are many ways to respond to complaints that don’t involve criminal charges,” Neev said. “This was a pretty poor way of dealing with it. We had kind of an unspoken truce before this with police, where they could contact us directly or indirectly about complaints.”

Neev said police “took everything” in the raid, including “cannabis, hash, computers, scales, baggies and other equipment,” but that “members with medical licences were allowed to keep the marijuana they had on them.”

The police raid marks the first on a large compassion club in more than a decade and stunned many in the marijuana legalization and drug policy reform communities, provoking speculation of a possible Federal crackdown on marijuana dispensaries.

Despite the harsh police action, Marzel said the Ontario Court of Justice dealt a “huge victory” to the medical cannabis club and medical marijuana activism by not putting restrictions on its owner.

“The judge presiding at the bail hearing, after hearing arguments on the judicial consideration of the medical marijuana program over the last 12 years, was satisfied that there’s a serious issue that the government may be thwarting access to medical cannabis for patients,” the attorney said. “As a result, the Court made the unprecedented move of not denying management access to the club after releasing on bail. So Neev finds himself in the very unusual situation where the Ontario court of Justice didn’t impose any restrictions on him returning back to C.A.L.M., and yet the staff have been hoodwinked by the police into entering a recognizance preventing them from coming back.”

C.A.L.M. was able to show the Court that the club services patients who have a license from Health Canada or are in the process of obtaining one, and the judge agreed that the government has been fumbling the ball on the issue of supply of medication for the last 13 years.

“The court recognized Health Canada had indicated that current restrictions [limiting growers to grow for only two medical patients at a time]were going to be a temporary response,” Marzel said, “but that was done last year and they still haven’t remedied the situation.”

Though Neev is able to return to work, C.A.L.M. is expected to be closed for the near future.

Neev and his staff play a key role in the Global Marijuana March and other cannabis events and it is unclear whether their roles will be hampered by restrictions forbidding them from fraternizing with each other.

C.A.L.M. is planning an event on Sunday, April 11, at Police HQ, (40 College St., 1pm-4:20pm) in Toronto to protest police actions. Check Cannabis Culture soon for more updates.

CLICK here to read Wednesday’s coverage of the raid on Cannabis Culture.

Click here for more video of the C.A.L.M. raid