Toronto’s CALM Compassion Club Raid Makes News

CANNABIS CULTURE – Almost a week after the raid on Toronto’s C.A.L.M. Compassion Club, the press is finally starting to pay a little attention.

Here are some stories from the Canadian media about the aggressive police raid last Wednesday at the Queens St. location of Cannabis As Living Medicine, one of the oldest medical marijuana dispensaries in the country.

Props to the Toronto Star, the first mainstream paper to pick up the story (on Saturday) after it was first reported by Cannabis Culture on Wednesday.

Nine charged after marijuana compassion club raided

by Jennifer Yang, Toronto Star

Nine people are facing drug charges after police raided a Queen St. compassion club that sells medical marijuana to patients suffering from chronic diseases, including HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

At about 3 p.m. Wednesday, plainclothes officers from 51 Division raided the headquarters of CALM, or Cannabis As Living Medicine, located at 106 Queen St. E.

The nine people arrested include club owner Neev Tapiero and patients who are federally licensed to possess marijuana, said CALM’s lawyer Ron Marzel.

Marzel said police were well aware that CALM only distributes marijuana for medical purposes, saying he is “appalled” by the police action. He has yet to speak with the lead detective and said he has no idea what prompted Wednesday’s raid.

“Organizations like this have existed for a long time. It’s not a surprise to the police force that these organizations exist,” Marzel said, adding that CALM is actively lobbying for clearance from Health Canada to sell medical marijuana. “In my assessment, this is a totally inappropriate response to an organization that is seeking legitimization to help sick people.”

Tapiero said this is the first time police have raided CALM since the club was established 14 years ago, in 1996. The compassion club has about 3,000 registered members and about ten percent have federally-issued cards permitting them to possess medical marijuana. The rest have written approval from a doctor, chiropractor or naturopath, Tapiero said.

Police involved in the raid could not be reached for comment on Friday but a 51 Division staff sergeant confirmed that a warrant had been executed at CALM by plainclothes officers. According to a police document obtained by the Star, police seized 16,589 grams of marijuana, 1,940 grams of hashish, and 207 grams of hash oil, the sum of which has an estimated street value of $218,404. A quantity of cash was also seized, according to the document.

Marzel said one person manning the door at CALM was knocked down and injured by police during the raid. Two of the nine arrested were also detained overnight, including Tapiero, but released Friday on bail. CALM has been closed since the raid but a justice of the peace has permitted club managers to re-enter the premises.

Tapiero said CALM is just one of several compassion clubs in Toronto and he doesn’t know why his establishment was suddenly targeted. He acknowledged compassionate clubs operate within a kind of legal grey zone but police have generally turned a blind eye towards establishments such as CALM.

For CALM member Kim, who declined to give her last name, she fears what would happen if CALM were to shut down. The 48-year-old single mom is on disability and suffers from several maladies, including fibromyalgia, and the pain gets so overwhelming she can’t think or sleep.

But Kim dislikes prescription painkillers like OxyContin, which leave her feeling groggy. She prefers medical marijuana, which soothes her pain without robbing her of her functionality.

CALM is planning to hold a protest rally in response to the raid at Allan Gardens at 1 p.m. on April 11.

– Article from The Toronto Star on April 3, 2010.

‘Compassion club’ providing medicinal marijuana shut down by police

by Anthony Reinhart, The Globe & Mail

When the burning becomes too much, Josh Dvorkin pulls out his lighter, lights up a joint and fires back.

Mr. Dvorkin, who injured his spinal cord when he fell during an epileptic seizure five years ago, has since relied on medical marijuana to relieve neuropathic pain. To get the drug, he takes his Health Canada licence to buy five grams of pot a day and rides his electric wheelchair to CALM – which stands for Cannabis As Living Medicine – a compassion club that operates behind an unmarked storefront on Queen Street East.

“Agitated” would be a more apt name for the club since Toronto police raided it last Wednesday. Undercover officers, armed with a warrant and backed up by uniformed officers, arrested nine workers and seized 16.5 kilograms of marijuana, 1.9 kg of hashish, 200 grams of hash oil, a quantity of cash and the club’s computers.

The raid, which came 14 years into CALM’s otherwise hassle-free existence, has left a trail of questions in its wake. The most immediate one for Mr. Dvorkin and nearly 2,000 other members is, where will I get my weed?

“I don’t know,” Mr. Dvorkin said Sunday at the club. It remains closed indefinitely, but he was there with owner Neev Tapiero, club lawyer Ron Marzel and others to plot next steps, including a protest outside police headquarters next Sunday. “It just makes every day that much more unliveable,” the 34-year-old Ryerson University journalism student added.

Detective Jim Brons, the investigating officer who led the raid, was off duty and unavailable to explain the raid. A police source, however, said “I don’t think it’s done arbitrarily.” Mr. Tapiero said officers told him only that they were “acting on complaints.”

Advocates for looser pot restrictions are pointing to the raid – caught on several of the club’s security cameras and since posted on YouTube – as a sign of the ineffectiveness of the federal medicinal marijuana program.

“The simple solution to all this is for Health Canada to licence large-scale medical cannabis production facilities,” said Mr. Marzel, one of a handful of lawyers who specialize in challenging the country’s marijuana laws.

As it stands, licensed patients can buy their pot from Health Canada, grow small quantities for themselves or designate someone to grow it for them. However, many argue the regulations make it overly difficult to obtain the drug in sufficient quality and quantity, and instead buy from compassion clubs such as CALM.

Various courts have upheld patients’ complaints about the Health Canada program, and other club operators have seen similar charges – namely, possession for the purpose of trafficking – dropped in previous cases.

– Article from The Globe & Mail April 5, 2010.

Medical marijuana compassion clubs face new scrutiny

by Megan Ogilvie, The Toronto Star

In the video, plainclothes officers chase a patron into a storefront doorway.

One man is pushed face-first to the ground and handcuffed. Another patron is knocked down as two officers rush past. Some carry nightclubs. One officer appears to slap a patron twice on the head.

The images could be out of a late-night cop show.

But the video shows the March 31 raid of the headquarters of CALM, or Cannabis As Living Medicine, at 106 Queen St. E. The compassion club, which sells medical marijuana to patients suffering from chronic diseases, posted the video on YouTube after piecing together footage from security cameras.

Police have not yet commented on the raid.

But the images provide an example of what can happen in the legal grey zone in which compassion clubs operate in Canada.

“Until recently, it seemed like authorities were looking the other way,” said Dr. Chris Cavacuiti, a family physician at St. Michael’s Hospital. “Nobody was really sure where it stood.”

According to Neev Tapiero, CALM’s owner, this is the first time police have raided the club since it opened in 1996.

Compassion clubs across Canada sporadically face police scrutiny. In February, the Qikiqtani Compassion Club in Iqaluit was shut down by police. Owner Ed DeVries plans to defend his possession charges by mounting a constitutional challenge. He claims people in Nunavut who could benefit from medical marijuana are having their rights violated because the medical community will not provide the legal documentation required by Health Canada.

Health Canada granted access to medical marijuana in July 2001. The Marihuana Medical Access Regulations define the conditions for which an individual is permitted to use, possess or produce medical marijuana.

Palliative care patients, patients with specific symptoms and medical conditions or patients for whom conventional treatment has failed can apply to possess medical marijuana from Health Canada. Conditions and symptoms the agency lists include: severe pain and/or muscle spasms from multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury or spinal cord disease, and severe pain, weight loss and nausea from cancer or HIV/AIDS infection.

According to Health Canada, “applicants must provide a declaration from a medical practitioner to support their application.”

However, physicians are largely uncomfortable in this gatekeeper roll.

The Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA), which provides legal defence and liability protection to physicians, recommends that doctors ask a patient to sign a “release from liability form” before completing Health Canada’s application.

Physicians are required to submit the daily amount, form and route of administration of marijuana the “applicant intends to use,” according to the CMPA. Applicants for Health Canada-approved marijuana must also declare they have discussed the risks with the physician who signs the form.

Cavacuiti said physicians are generally uncomfortable with Health Canada’s required forms.

“It’s being used as a medication and Health Canada is asking physicians to state that this medication can be safely used in this individual patient,” said Cavacuiti.

“I think many doctors have some concerns about that because it hasn’t gone the same rigorous clinical trial evaluation that most medications are forced to before they become approved as prescribable medications.”

According to Health Canada, as of June 2009, 4,029 people were allowed to possess dried marijuana and 2,841 were allowed to cultivate or produce marijuana for medical purposes.

In Ontario, 1,631 people have been authorized by Health Canada to possess medical marijuana and 801 physicians supported Health Canada’s application for medical marijuana.

Cavacuiti said physicians are more likely to suggest patients get medical marijuana from compassion clubs, such as CALM, which only ask physicians to list a patient’s diagnosis.

“I think there is generally a higher level of comfort in the physician community with providing a list of diagnoses a patient has and confirming the diagnoses with organizations like CALM,” Cavacuiti said.

CALM’s lawyer Ron Marzel said the compassion club is lobbying for clearance from Health Canada to sell medical marijuana. Nine people, including CALM’s owner, face drug charges following the raid.

The compassion club has about 3,000 registered members. About 10 per cent have federally issued cards permitting them to possess medical marijuana, while the rest have written approval from a doctor, chiropractor or naturopath.

– Article from The Toronto Star. on April 5, 2010

Excessive Force Used In Raid On Medical Marijuana Club, Lawyer Says


The lawyer for a Toronto medical marijuana club says police used excessive force in a raid on the premises last Wednesday.

Officers from 51 Division, who claimed to be acting on complaints, descended on the Cannabis As Living Medicine (CALM) Compassion Club on Queen Street East, arresting nine people and seizing cannabis, hash and other equipment.

“They stormed their way in and started throwing patients down and pinning them to the ground. We got it all on video,” said CALM’s attorney Ron Marzel.

He said one employee suffered whiplash, a concussion, and a swollen lip.

Police charged the club’s owner, Neev Tapiero, and eight staff members with possession for the purposes of trafficking. They were released on the condition they not return to CALM.

“There are many ways to respond to complaints that don’t involve criminal charges. This was a pretty poor way of dealing with it,” Tapiero said.

“We had an unspoken truce before this with police where they could contact us about complaints.”

CALM says it provides about 3,000 Canadians living with cancer, HIV and chronic pain with safe and continuous access to medicinal cannabis.
“These are individuals who have a license to possess medical cannabis for their ailments,” Marzel said.
Supporters of the club plan to protest at Toronto Police headquarters at College and Bay streets on Sunday at 1pm.

– Article from on April 5, 2010.

Compassion-club raid caught on video

by Chris Bilton, Eye Weekly

Last Wednesday, one of Canada’s oldest compassion clubs, CALM (Cannabis as Living Medicine) on Queen Street East, was raided by a dozen 51 Division officers who seized, according to volunteer Amy Brown, approximately 16 kg of marijuana. One thing that the police didn’t seize was the in-house security footage, which has been circulating on YouTube in various versions (this one includes a Floydian soundtrack and informative commentary).

Now, it’s not surprising that police would score such a large pot payload from the club, considering the fact that they have been providing medicinal marijuana to people suffering from HIV, MS and other illnesses for 14 years. What is surprising is that, as Brown explains, all nine people who were arrested have ATP licenses (Authorization to Possess Marijuana), just as approximately 10 per cent of the 2,600 club members who rely on CALM to provide their medicine. (According to a Toronto Star report, all of the members are registered with the club and have either government-issued ATP cards or written permission from doctors or caregivers to use pot.) Furthermore, the club is currently trying to gain further legitimacy from Health Canada to sell medicinal marijuana.

rown says that the club has never been raided before and maintains an open-door policy. As of today, she says there has been no disclosure to explain why they were raided, alleging also that when police entered, no warrant was shown. From the YouTube video, one person inside the club gets forcibly thrown to the ground while from another angle, a second person is detained outside the door. As one YouTube comment suggests, the whole operation looks more like a robbery than a police action. The club’s owner, Neev Tapiero, has been allowed to return to CALM, but without his staff (or product) is unable to provide medication to the thousands who depend on the service. The detective in charge of the raid has yet to comment.

CALM will be holding a protest march on April 11 at 1pm outside Police Headquarters (40 College). Yes, there is a Facebook protest group.

– Article from Eye Weekly on April 5, 2010.

Raid a waste of police resources

by The Toronto Star

Re:Nine charged after marijuana

compassion club raided, April 3

Why are our tax dollars being used for police to raid a medical marijuana compassion clinic? Don’t they have anything better to do than arrest people with illnesses like AIDS, glaucoma, cancer or MS? All of these people have either prescriptions from an MD or cards issued by Ottawa allowing them to possess cannabis. No other drugs besides cannabis were found, yet police still arrested nine people. Now those people and many more who are very sick will be forced to go to “the streets” to buy their medicine instead of a club that has been licenced and operating for 14 years.

This is exactly why drug dealers, criminal gangs and terrorists love our drug laws – it lines their pockets. Way to go cops, saving us from legitimate businesses and sick people while making criminals richer.

Janice Barton, Scarborough

Police raid the CALM club, grab stock off shelves, shove around the staff, and even knock one person to the floor. How sad and perverse.

If we have such a surplus of police that we can afford expensive raids and court action, then we should re-visit the police budget and look at the number of officers we actually “need.” Surely that money could be better spent on treatment facilities and poverty relief.

Robyn Peterson, Toronto

This raid sends a chill through my backbone. Shame on the police.

Jeffrey Russel, Toronto

March 31, 2010 is a very sad day for freedom in Canada.

Michael Rodrigue, Wasaga Beach

What a monumental waste of resourses.

Kevin Kelly, Etobicoke

– Article from The Toronto Star on April 6, 2010.

Health Canada’s weed is mostly shwag, critics warn


Last week’s police raid on Toronto’s Cannabis As Living Medicine (CALM), eastern Canada’s oldest medical cannabis club, had little in common with a blockbuster movie drug bust. In this surveillance video posted by CALM on YouTube, undercover officers flit past a parked disability scooter before taking one employee to the ground. Patrons inside remain seated as they look on, nonplussed. Now the Queen Street East compassion club’s 2,000-plus members have to go without the 16.5 kilograms of marijuana, 1.9 kilograms of hashish and 200 grams of hash oil that were seized in the bust. But the real story here isn’t the bust—it’s the blame. Critics of the cops say places like CALM need to exist because Health Canada’s federal marijuana program doesn’t know how to properly deal drugs, delivering insufficient quantities of a poor-quality bud.

In Canada, marijuana law and marijuana law enforcement have had a tenuous, at times contradictory relationship. “Various courts have upheld patients’ complaints about the Health Canada program,” the Globe reports, “and other club operators have seen similar charges—namely, possession for the purpose of trafficking—dropped in previous cases.” CALM itself had operated without incident for 14 years before police, apparently “acting on complaints,” shut it down.

“The simple solution to all this is for Health Canada to license large-scale medical cannabis production facilities,” says Ron Marzel, the club’s lawyer. If the feds were to hire local growers, they could widen their grip on production and, technically, remain the country’s sole distributor. It would then be up to state hemployees to assess need and ensure a consistent product.

– Article from