CN ON: Pot Charges Dropped Against Medicinal Pot Distributors
Pubdate: Mon, 02 Feb 2004
Source: Leaside-Rosedale Town Crier (CN ON)
Copyright: 2004 Town Crier Media Inc.
Author: Andrew Matte
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/mmjcn.htm (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)
POT CHARGES DROPPED AGAINST MEDICINAL POT DISTRIBUTORS
The Compassion Club Raided In August Of 2002
The Compassion Club on Bathurst St. near St. Clair Ave. where marijuana was distributed to ailing users could be open for business again.
The Toronto Compassion Club, a small, store-front space where marijuana was distributed to pot smokers who said they needed the drug for medicinal purposes could be re-opening after trafficking charges against its founders were dropped.
The federal justice department announced Jan. 28, 17 months after the club was raided, that it wouldn't proceed with drug trafficking charges laid by Toronto police against its two founders.
In August of 2002, police raided the club where volunteers were growing and distributing marijuana to more than 1,200 users, all of whom had doctor's prescriptions for the drug. Recently, it became legal for patients with diseases like glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy to possess marijuana.
The charges against founders Warren Hitzig and Zack Naftolin were dropped the day before they were supposed to go ahead with a preliminary hearing into possession and trafficking charges.
However, with Hitzig, Naftolin and their supporters cheering on the steps of Toronto's Old City Hall, officials with the justice department said it's possible the charges could be re-laid.
The case was seen as a litmus test for new legislation that allowed for some seriously ill patients to smoke marijuana while other laws still made it illegal for them to purchase it.
While the federal government began to consider licensing growers, police were cracking down on still-illegal producers and distributors. A Court of Appeal ruling later recognized storefront locations like the Companion Centre, but police still laid charges.
Alan Young, a lawyer who helped set up the Toronto Compassion Centre and a professor at Osgoode Hall, was correct when he predicted last year the Crown might not drop the charges until mere days before a preliminary hearing.
Young expects Toronto police simply won't 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.
"Despite the fact that marijuana, as a medicinal therapeutic agent has gained renewed understanding and acceptability and understanding, there's just no infrastructure in place for its distribution because we also have, concurrently, a criminal prohibition," he said.
Young said the actual club has been operating and flourishing in a new location in the city's east end, but that both Hitzig and Naftolin weren't involved in it because the conditions of their release prohibited it.
"I get asked what this all means for clubs, I say that I don't know. I think this means this appears to be some sort of permission - but there are two clubs in Toronto that are doing very well," he said.
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 doctor's prescriptions. Government officials say the product still needs to be tested for quality and potency.
The club, which has openly distributed marijuana ( or "medicine" as club members call it ) for years, has operated at arm's length from police, who regularly kept tabs on the operation.
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