Pot protesters fume over raid
Tuesday, May 18, 20100 Comments
At 60, Guelph resident and grandmother Janet (an assumed name) says is too old to buy marijuana off the street for her 66-year-old husband Mike, who suffers from back problems and smokes the occasional joint to relieve his pain.
“If I had to buy off a street dealer I would feel like a criminal, and I don’t like to feel that way,” Janet says.
Instead, the former nurse filled her husband’s prescription (he isn't approved through Health Canada, which regulates possession of medical marijuana) at the Medical Cannabis Club of Guelph, which accepted doctors’ notes.
The MCCG office, located in a nondescript storefront on Baker Street, was “friendly” and had “great staff,” she says.
Now that a raid by Guelph Police has shut down the facility, she says has little choice but to "find some street connections" to buy marijuana. "Maybe I can get some off the university!” she jokes.
Janet and Mike were among more than 150 protesters gathered at St. George’s Square on Saturday, demanding that Guelph Police drop charges laid against four individuals in connection with an investigation into the MCCG.
Guelph Cannabis Club founder Rade Kovacevic, 24 was charged with six counts of trafficking marijuana; four counts of trafficking hashish; two counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking and one count of drug production after police searched the Baker Street Club and five other addresses on Dublin Street, London Road, Arrow Road and Quebec Street.
Kocacevic’s fiancée, 31-year-old Nicole Freeborn, was charged with one count of possession for the purpose of trafficking.
Scott Gilbert, a 27-year-old employee of the medical club, was charged with six counts of trafficking marijuana; two counts of trafficking hashish; two counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking and one count of drug production.
Eitan Gallant, 24, of Guelph, was charged with three counts of trafficking marijuana; one count of trafficking hashish; two counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking and one count of drug production.
All four appeared in court last Friday. Kovacevic was released on $10,000 bail, while the other three accused were released on $5,000 bail.
They are scheduled to appear in court May 31.
According to the Guelph Mercury, police seized more than 20 kilograms of dried marijuana, several vials of ground marijuana, 258 marijuana plants, various marijuana-laced baked goods and more than $10,000 cash in connection with the bust.
In court, prosecutors alleged that undercover police officers were able to obtain marijuana and hashish without the appropriate Health Canada authorization, and that all but one of the accused wasn't authorized to grow marijuana for medicinal use.
“We believe these folks have operated outside (Health Canada) guidelines and regulations,” Seargeant Doug Pflug, a spokesperson for Guelph Police, told the Mercury.
Surrounded by a cheering crowd, Kovacevic vowed to fight the charges, saying his club provided a much-needed service to the community and didn't deserve to be treated like a criminal organization.
"We provide jobs, we put money back into the local community and we help people who are seriously ill," said Kovacevic, who graduated from the University of Guelph in 2006 with a degree in Management Economics.
He also accused Guelph Police of playing "copycat" by emulating a similar raid of a medical marijuana dispensary in downtown Toronto last month.
"I think Guelph Police saw what happened in Toronto and said 'hey, let's copy what big brother is doing," he said.
The Cannabis Club's shuttering would result in a "disastrous situation" for people in Guelph and the surrounding region who use marijuana to manage symptoms related to AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis and other diseases, he said.
Since 2001, people with chronic or debilitating illnesses have been able to apply for licenses to grow or possess limited amounts of medical marijuana supplied by Health Canada.
Kovacevic told thecannon that only 40 per cent of the club's 330 members were registered with the Health Canada program. A further 20 per cent were in the process of registering, while the remaining clients provided prescriptions from their doctors - a method not recognized by Health Canada.
Kovacevic says his club accepts prescriptions because some doctors are reluctant to sign Health Canada's forms for legal reasons.
He insists club staff follow up with doctors to ensure the prescription is valid before dispensing marijuana
Mike, a Kitchener resident who attended the rally, says he's had little luck so far finding a family doctor, which makes it difficult to have his Health Canada application signed.
Still, the 24-year-old, who suffers from Crohn's disease, says he's had little trouble finding marijuana off the street, happily puffing away throughout the rally.
"It would be nice if I didn't have to buy off the black market," he said. "I think Guelph had a good thing going with the compassion clinic."