The limits on compassion -

The limits on compassion

Police are suddenly cracking down on medical marijuana clubs


Graham Hughes/CP

For the past six years, Sophie Andronas’s routine has included smoking two grams of marijuana a day to alleviate the twitches, spasms and pain associated with multiple sclerosis. And though a permit from Health Canada means she is one of 3,439 Canadians allowed to grow and possess marijuana, Andronas has relied on the Montreal Compassion Centre for both product and plants.

That was until police shut down the centre, along with four other Quebec marijuana dispensaries, in early June: not only had she lost a source of medicine, but she realized that buying from the centre technically meant she could be charged with trafficking or possession. By law, medical marijuana users must procure their weed from Health Canada, and not from the handful of illegal compassion clubs across the country.

In recent months, police shut down Toronto’s CALM and the Medical Cannabis Club of Guelph, Ont., charging the operators with trafficking, while the coordinated Quebec sweep netted three established clubs and two upstart franchises where operators were giving away free marijuana with new memberships. (Police and club operators in Ontario say there was no link between the Toronto and Guelph raids.)

While the closures have wreaked havoc on those who use their services, some in the community see a silver lining: a chance to take on Health Canada’s medical marijuana regulations in court. “I haven’t exactly been waiting for the day, but I’ve been preparing for it,” says Marc-Boris St-Maurice, one of 35 arrested in the Quebec raids. A marijuana activist, occasional politician and owner of the Montreal Compassion Club, St-Maurice was charged with trafficking and has six lawyers on the case, which he says will focus on the problems of accessibility. (His first court appearance was scheduled for June 23.)

Medical marijuana has been legal in Canada since 1999. For the last 11 years, the federal government has been responsible for screening applicants, as well as growing, packaging and selling marijuana and marijuana seeds. But as a general rule, the medical marijuana community gives the government a thumbs down. Though Health Canada spokesperson Christelle Legault said the federal government “strives to provide a high-quality source of dried marijuana to authorized persons at a reasonable cost,” several users contacted by Maclean’s spoke of backlogs of up to six months in the licensing process and subpar marijuana. Even police agree the system is dysfunctional. “There is a step missing in Health Canada’s regulation” that makes it hard for users to get marijuana, says Antonio Iannantuoni, commander of the Montreal morality squad that oversaw the Montreal busts. (Iannantuoni says only the compassion club operators, not clients, were targeted.)

Compassion clubs have filled that void—and though they are illegal, at least some of them have become local institutions. The Montreal Compassion Centre and CALM and have been around for eight and 13 years respectively; Guelph’s club even had its buildings and marijuana crops insured, and claimed to be the first Canadian compassion club to accept Visa and MasterCard. All three required proof of chronic ailment or pain.

And yet, people like Andronas break the law when they use the services. “I’m suffering because of the stigma,” says the 42-year-old mother of two. “I feel like I’ve been deemed a drug user because of the medicine I choose to take.”


The limits on compassion

  1. Good points until you said legalization would make cops get laid off. You gotta be high right now, man.

    • I completely agree Les.
      I am a quadriplegic who smokes regularly, and it really ticks me off when I read a post that brings up so many good points and then you go throw in a comment about cops being laid off. This isn't a topic for conspiracy theories.

      • There IS a conspiracy. The DEA still maintains cannabis has no medicinal value and as such is a schedule 1 drug. marijuana enforcement represents a huge portion of their efforts with 800,000 people being arrested each year for simple possession. If marijuana became legal there would be many cops, prison guards, lawyers, judges, and prison supplier cutbacks including layoffs. California is voting to legalize this November and the big reason is because of the huge costs associated with prosecuting non violent offenders. Not to mention the heavily racist component of pot prohibition. The US govt. dictates drug policy to us and particularly under Harper we tow the line. You sir are being naive.

        • Any substance no matter how good its medicinal value, taken often and beyond the proper dosage, could cause damage to anyone's body.

    • lol ok we already know the big tobacco companies have copy rights and every thing all set up for the day it becomes ok to be sick and not have to hide it. Now if capitalism is to survive which it will then those in high (no pun intended)
      places in corporations can get it passed into what we know as the prohibition rules of government, remember the booze shut down and war on alcohol well we forgot politicians like to indulge too, so it is just a matter of time. Mean while they will try to look like they are trying to win this war and finally have a peace treaty ready.

  2. Legalization would still mean government control. Which as the story points out is very much a government standard.
    Over spent and under performed.
    Face it, like booze; weed will never be allowed to be free and unregulated.

  3. I hope the Americans will let us at least decriminalize marijuana soon.

    I also hope I will the lottery soon.

  4. crime would drop significantly, as it HAS been for 26 years. the cops are ALREADY having trouble justifying their numbrs and budgets and powers, so that is why they use our tax dollars to lay put bags of weed and guns and cash and boast to the public – while simultaneously admitting they are not willing.

    "We are successful, but the problem is getting even bigger, so we need to do more of the same stuff."
    It is beyond absurd.

    if pot were legal and crime dropped…. what? we gonna hire MORE cops? of close jails and lay of guards like THEY HAVE BEEN DOING in the Netherlands…..?

    We don't need this many cops. we don't have enough crime to justify it.

    • I am more concerned about the American prison industry Harper seems to love so much…….

    • there are a number of more significant differences between canada and the netherlands in explaining differences in incarceration rates i believe. also saying guards are getting laid offed in the netherlands does not mean cops will get laid off here.

    • Barth says in his post: "We don't need this many cops. we don't have enough crime to justify it."
      I have a bad feeling we'd need all of those cops and more back on the streets the minute we started laying them off, as Barth advocates.
      Barth has obviously never heard of a thing called "deterence" as a contributor to keeping crime levels in check.
      He seems to thinks just passing the bong without interference from 'the man' would be e nough to usher in a new era of love, humanity and universal peace, man. Like, fer real.
      And, hey, how's that Human Rights complaint that you lodged against the club that wouldn't let you smoke dope inside their premises going, Russ?

    • Crime rate in Netherland has not dropped. In fact many of their citizens are also complaining of higher crime rate. There are streets where you are inviting trouble walking alone. Number of crimes are comitted by children that are hooked on drugs. As for disappearance of gangs and drugs on the street after decriminalization, that is wishful thinking. Gangs wage wars on our street not because of Marijuana but for more hard core and expensive drugs. I do approve of decriminalization but deregulation, I do not think so. Marijuana is an entry drug. Most of those who got hook on it will soon have no choice but to look for and advance on drugs that deliver higher highs and with less stink and less unpleasantness in taste. For those who think of deregulation, think very carefully.

  5. This country is now so over-policed there are virtually no freedoms left.

  6. I support decriminalization of Marijuana(tax them heavily while you are at it – to recoup future hospitalization and care of these crack heads ) but deregulation, I do not think that is possible nor ideal. Do not hold your breath for the disappearance of drugs and gang crimes after decriminalization. Guns and gangs are not fighting in the street for marijuana grow ops and its market but they are waging wars for more expensive and hard core drugs. I would rather have cops than drug addicts, pushers, gangs, and anarchists on our street.