Chief Says Police Pot Club Raid Was a Matter of Law

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair and fellow officers met with the LGBT community on May 4, 2010 to discuss the concerns of local residents. (Sandie Benitah/ctvtoronto.ca)Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair and fellow officers met with the LGBT community on May 4, 2010 to discuss the concerns of local residents. (Sandie Benitah/ctvtoronto.ca)Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said he won’t ask his officers to turn a blind eye to unlicensed marijuana facilities that have popped up around the city.

Without a Health Canada permit, facilities that distribute medicinal cannabis are “no different than the dealer on the street corner,” Blair said Tuesday night to a room of about 50 people attending a meeting between police and the LGBT community at the Church Street Community Centre in downtown Toronto.

“We have to act accordingly to the rule of the law, not on a whim,” he said. “There is no grey area in this situation.”

Blair was responding to several people in the audience who complained about a March 31 police raid on the CALM Club, a medical marijuana distribution center on Queen Street East near Jarvis Street.

People in the audience told the chief the raid was unnecessary and harmful to the many people living in the community with AIDS and other debilitating diseases — most of whom are licensed to use medicinal marijuana.

Ron Marzel, a Toronto criminal defence lawyer who has had success challenging marijuana regulations in the courtroom, told police the raid has affected dozens of patients who depend on the drug for an improved quality of life.

He dismissed Blair’s contention that the matter is a parliamentary issue rather than an issue of police enforcement, saying his last marijuana court battle was drawn out for five years.

“For the patients who need medicine, this is not something that can wait,” he said to the crowd. “If you’re sick, you need medicine now, not in five years. Where are they supposed to get their medicine?”

Blair said police simply do not have the right to choose which laws they want to enforce.

“I can’t agree to asking police not to enforce the law,” he said. “I don’t have the ability to negate the laws of this country. The resolution you seek is not from police but is best sought from the legal system.”

He defended taking a political stance on other contentious issues, such as the gun registry, saying unlike the matter of marijuana, guns are “a matter of public safety” and that the registry is a “valuable tool” for officers.

One audience member named Diane stood up and told police to go ahead and shut down the four other medicinal marijuana facilities across Toronto.

“If you want to make a difference, shut them all down, make us mad enough to get us all out to vote to help change the laws,” she said.

Blair pointed out that police have received several complaints about the facility from the community. The complaints are what led to the raid.

One man at the meeting told police he is disturbed to see customers of the centre come out of the club only to resell the drug to people waiting for them on the street.

“I hate to see friends who need it sell it because they need the cash,” said the man.

The CALM club raid was the most talked about issue at the meeting though police touched on other local issues, including recent acts of aggression against transgendered prostitutes and how to improve outreach programs within the community.

Several people in the audience praised Blair and other police officers for making an effort to improve relations with the LGBT community.

“Ten years ago, this meeting wouldn’t have happened,” said one woman who took the mic.

– Article from CTV News.

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