Forest Hill Town Crier - September 2002 - front page
Pot Bust Raises Legal Questions
Lawyer vows to fight for club that distributes medical marijuana
Long legal fight expected over marijuana club
(Posted Date: Wednesday, August 28, 2002)
Lawyer vows to fight charges in court
By Andrew Matte
Charges were laid against members of the Toronto Compassion Centre on Bathurst St. just south of St. Clair Ave. W.
The lawyer representing four people who face charges following the raid of a local marijuana distribution centre expects the case to go to a full trial in about a year.
Alan Young expects Toronto police simply wonít drop the charges of drug possession and drug trafficking against the members before they force a full trial sometime next year.
He speculates the charges were laid as a sort of political retribution against the club for its involvement in a lawsuit against the Canadian government over laws governing the sale and use of marijuana for medical purposes.
Warren Hitzig, the clubís founder, is among seven people who launched the lawsuit, which is meant to prod the government into clearing up the confusion regarding the medicinal use of the drug.
"Despite the fact that marijuana, as a medicinal therapeutic agent has gained renewed understanding and acceptability and understanding, thereís just no infrastructure in place for its distribution because we also have, concurrently, a criminal prohibition." ó Alan Young
While many marijuana users have received permission under law to use the drug for treatment of illness, they are simply unable to obtain it through legal means.
An experimental program of the federal government that sees pot grown in an abandoned copper mine in Flin Flon, Man., has yet to ship any marijuana to those with doctorís prescriptions. Government officials say the product still needs to be tested for quality and potency.
"I have always felt that the state is a very vindictive institution and all I can say is that the only new event is that the Toronto Compassion Club is participating in a lawsuit against the Canadian government to sort of push them along. And to me this seems like some form of political interference," Young said.
"Despite the fact that marijuana, as a medicinal therapeutic agent has gained renewed understanding and acceptability and understanding, thereís just no infrastructure in place for its distribution because we also have, concurrently, a criminal prohibition."
The timing of the charges, which came Aug. 13, is also curious, Young said.
The club, which has openly distributed marijuana (or "medicine" as club members call it) for years, has operated at armís length from police, who regularly kept tabs on the operation.
Itís believed the club, which even had its own Web site and published phone number, served about 1,000 who used marijuana for medical reasons.
But a visit to the club in December by police from several jurisdictions after a robbery at the club likely made other officers curious about why the club was allowed to operate, Young wonders.
"We were always very open with the police. We were very open about what we were doing and why we were doing it," Young said.
But after the December investigation, "here you had all of these officers wondering what they should do," he said.
At the time of the visit in December by police, a large quantity of "medicine" was confiscated.