Medicinal pot users protest club closure
'Now I have to go to the street to find (marijuana)'
Friday, August 23, 2002
TORONTO -- Medicinal marijuana users lit up on a downtown street Friday to protest a delay in releasing government-grown cannabis to sick people and a recent police raid on a Toronto cannabis supply centre.
"Now I have to go to the street to find (marijuana),'' said Paul Phillips, 43, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in Sept. 2001.
"It's not as good on the street and it's maybe twice as much money.''
Phillips, whose cancer has spread to his brain and bones, said a doctor originally suggested he start smoking marijuana to offset the effects of his medications.
"The marijuana helps me to eat. It gives me an appetite and it helps me sleep at night so I can stay alive.''
Phillips and his wife drove 100 kilometres to Toronto from Beaverton, Ont., to join about 100 other marijuana users smoking their natural medicine on a busy street in front of Justice Department offices.
He credits medicinal marijuana -- obtained from the Toronto Compassion Centre with a doctor's prescription -- with bringing his weight back up to 150 pounds from less than 100.
Established in 1997 by a Toronto criminal lawyer and law professor, the Toronto Compassion Centre was providing marijuana to 1,200 sick people before it was raided last week.
"We operated for four years with impunity. The police knew about (the centre) and for reasons that will never be completely understood by me they raided them last week and put them out of business,'' said lawyer Alan Young.
Young and three others associated with the centre were arrested Aug. 13 and charged with trafficking in a controlled substance and possession for the purpose of trafficking over a three-month period.
Marijuana was also confiscated from the office.
The raid effectively shut down the centre.
To add to the frustration of medicinal marijuana users, Federal Health Minister Anne McLellan told the Canadian Medical Association this week she won't release any of the marijuana being grown for the government to distribute to sick and dying patients until it has been tested in clinical trials.
The stipulation suggests that the government marijuana, being grown in an old mine Flin Flon, Man., won't be made available to severely sick or dying patients for years, if ever.
"Either the government has to provide the medicine or they have to allow the clubs to flourish,'' Young said.
Although possessing marijuana is illegal in Canada, several police officers stood by and watched the protesters smoke their drugs on the street Friday. No charges were laid.
"We're here to keep the peace, and they're being peaceful,'' said Sgt. Mark Hayward.
"As far as them doing anything wrong, that would have to be determined by further criminal investigation and that's not warranted at this time because they are being peaceful.''