A former RCMP officer living with severe multiple sclerosis is suing the Mounties and Health Canada for damages suffered after his former colleagues raided his medical marijuana nursery.
Carlos (Cam) Cavaco, 50, and his wife Marnie O’Neil, who also acts as his sole caregiver, on Thursday filed a B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit alleging that on two separate occasions, less than eight months apart, their medicinal pot plants were destroyed by Sooke RCMP.
The lawsuit says the ensuing stress left them spiritually and emotionally shaken, their health deteriorated and their finances in ruin.
“Health Canada has bullied our physicians, provided irresponsible guidelines and put patients in legal limbo,” O’Neil complained in an interview.
“There are gaps in the system that cause people like us to suffer. Worse, these problems combined with police discrimination against our medicine creates an environment where people are harassed, their property and medicine is destroyed and their health is compromised.”
The federal government has not yet responded to the suit and the couple’s claims remain unproven.
Cavaco had a brief but dramatic threeyear career in the 1980s with the North Vancouver RCMP detachment, retiring with serious health complications after he shot a man who knifed him.
His medical condition has worsened since, and he must use a motorized wheelchair.
O’Neil, 48, has lived with spina bifida, scoliosis, spondylolisthesis and severe sciatica since childhood and was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2006.
Both suffer from a long list of debilitating and painful symptoms and use marijuana for relief.
Cavaco has had an exemption from the criminal drug laws allowing him to possess pot under the federal Medical Marihuana [its legal spelling]Access Program since it was introduced roughly a decade ago, and O’Neil has had an exemption since 2006.
They also have a licence to cultivate the plant.
Cavaco was using some 30 grams (about an ounce) daily in a variety of forms – smoking dried buds, ingesting baked and edible goods laced with marijuana and as an infused massage oil.
One of his allegations is that Health Canada pressured his physician to arbitrarily reduce that amount to three grams.
The couple says in the lawsuit that on Dec. 1, 2009, the RCMP raided their licensed growing operation without a valid warrant and destroyed the crop.
The pair, who in spite of their afflictions ran a Thai restaurant in Sooke, began to grow in their house. But on July 27, 2010, the lawsuit says, the Mounties invaded the home and uprooted those plants, too.
No charges were laid after either raid, the two add.
In spite of the raids, on Nov. 11, 2010, Health Canada issued O’Neil a permit to possess 90 grams of cannabis, to store an additional 360 grams and to grow 15 cannabis plants.
Over the last year, the RCMP in various B.C. jurisdictions have raided medical marijuana users and dispensaries.
At the same time, the federal government has been reconsidering the existing controversial access program with an eye to ending the personal growing exemptions in favour of a corporate commercial distribution system.
When the current system was instituted, Ottawa believed only a handful of patients in palliative care would take advantage of the scheme.
Instead, thousands of people have obtained exemptions and thousands more have applied – outraging some municipalities that are dealing with an epidemic of growing operations in residential neighbourhoods, and the hazards they pose.
Police are also critical of the program, saying too much of the marijuana being produced ends up on the black market.
Lawyer Kirk Tousaw, who is representing the couple, said: “My clients want to make sure that no more patients suffer.” O’Neil said Cavaco was forced to take morphine and his condition declined dramatically after his pot supply was taken away.
“It is a slippery slope,” O’Neil said in an interview, explaining how the complications with their health problems caused them to suffer economic hardships and the collapse of their business.
“As Cam grew more debilitated, I had to turn my focus from our restaurant, to home. The cost of trying to replace everything that was destroyed, my own symptoms flaring, working and managing the business, the stress was off the charts. Then the push over the edge came when the RCMP returned and it started all over again, only worse.”
– Article from The Vancouver Sun.