May 2016 NORML Canada Newsletter
Toronto Police Raid Dispensaries
The City of Toronto and Toronto Police have raided and closed over 45 dispensaries on May 26, 2016, arresting numerous people in the process. This is deeply troubling to Toronto’s medical cannabis dispensary community, as discussions around regulation and consultations with the city was just in its beginning stages. These raids appear to have been decided by TPS and the City without adequate consultation with medical cannabis patients or their providers.
A reduction in the number of dispensaries in Toronto will result in a loss of access to medical cannabis for many diverse patients across the GTA whose needs are currently not being met by the legal system – including access to onsite care and education, as well as access to a variety of products including edibles and extracts to treat their conditions.
“Our approach to drugs must be comprehensive, collaborative and compassionate. It must respect human rights while promoting shared responsibility. And it must have a firm scientific foundation,” Philpott said. “In Canada, we will apply these principles with regard to marijuana.”
We call on Toronto Police Services to immediately halt all raids and arrests, and rescind their threat to close medical cannabis dispensaries. We urge both TPS and the City of Toronto to begin meaningful consultations with the dispensary community to ensure fairness and transparency in the discussion around protecting patients’ rights, as well as our communities and citizens.
Former Chretien Cabinet Minister Anne McLellan to Head Legalization Task Force
The Liberal government has appointed former cabinet minister Anne McLellan to head the task force that will examine the best way to legalize cannabis in Canada.
The task force, to be unveiled before Parliament breaks for the summer, will consult experts and others on an outline for the proposed legislation, including how to regulate and tax the drug.
Long-time advocate Jodie Emery has publicly expressed interest in sitting on the task force, saying it would be “an honour” to represent legalization advocates and cannabis consumers who support balanced, evidence-based policy. Emery has said, “The Liberal Government needs to create a balanced task force that includes cannabis experts, not just former opponents of cannabis legalization.” At a Liberal function in early May, NORML Canada national secretary Paul Lewin had the opportunity to ask MP Bill Blair as to whether the legalization task force would include cannabis people. Mr. Blair indicated it would not. As of yet, there has been no one invited or approached from the cannabis community to participate. McLellan served as minister of justice and minister of health under Jean Chretien, before Paul Martin made her Canada’s first public safety minister from 1993 to 2006. Those three units are now responsible for coming up with the government’s proposed structure for legalizing marijuana.
NORML Canada at the LIFT Expo in Toronto
NORML Canada had a booth at the LIFT Expo on May 28-29 in Toronto at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. NORML Canada wishes to thank LIFT for donating the booth space and allowing NORML Canada to advocate for legalization and urge an end to arrests for cannabis by signing up new members and continuing our postcard campaign.
The event was expected to be a tense affair due to the recent arrests during Project Claudia. However, the event was largely positive, and many interested individuals came and chatted with NORML Canada at the booth. NORML Canada would also like to thank SKUNK Magazine for its t-shirt donations which helped raise $205 to help us in our legalization efforts.
The event featured attendees from both the MMAR and MMPR regimes, and was largely peaceful. In these difficult times NORML Canada urges all members of the Canadian cannabis community to be peaceful and to keep an open mind regarding legalization. The road may be rocky, but no matter what, no person should ever be incarcerated over the cannabis plant, whether they are a dispensary or a licenced producer. NORML Canada always has, and always will, advocate for responsible changes to drug policy in Canada to prevent otherwise law-abiding citizens from being locked up over a plant. NORML Canada will continue to advocate for home growers’ rights and urge the government to remember that all Canadians have the legal right to store 15kg of dried tobacco in their homes if they grow it themselves. Perhaps this is a good figure for home cannabis growers and would help solve many of the issues faced by dispensaries and medical users. Food for thought going forward. Contact us with your ideas for legalization! We welcome discourse on this subject, and our founder and president John Conroy has spoken very eloquently on the subject.
Abi worked hard to organize the event for NORML Canada, and also helped with the Women Grow Conference, as did Jenna, and NORML is lucky to have their support during these difficult days on the road to legalization.
Canadian Health Insurer Agrees to Pay for Medical Cannabis
NORML Canada applauds Sun Life Insurance for its brave and thoughtful response to the medical cannabis issue. Sun Life will now reimburse the cost of cannabis for patients as part of their insurance coverage. Jonathan Zaid, whose medical cannabis from Bedrocan was approved by Sun Life, was the first recipient of this insurance coverage and has already benefited. In an uncertain period where the new MMPR is being questioned due to the high cost of medicine, insurance help from Sun Life is to be applauded. However, not all Canadians have insurance, and all Canadians have a right to reasonable and dignified access to medical cannabis. This paradox affects us all and we urge the Canadian government to remember home growers’ rights so that all Canadians can afford access to their medicine.
Another View on the Toronto Raids
May 26th 2016 is being referred to as Black Thursday in the Toronto cannabis community. While cannabis advocates were attending a press conference regarding the regulation of medical cannabis dispensaries, the attendees were informed that the Toronto Police Service was executing 43 search warrants throughout Toronto on allegedly unlawful storefronts selling cannabis and cannabis-infused products.
On May 27, during his press conference, Chief Mark Saunders indicated that Project Claudia was launched due to 40-50 complaints being made by citizens. According to Chief Saunders, as a result of Project Claudia, 91 people were arrested and more than 250 criminal charges were laid. As for items seized, there were 269 kilos of dry cannabis flower, 30 kilos of cannabis resin, 24 kilos of cannabis hash, 27 kilos of marijuana and THC pills as well as “massive amounts of edibles” and $167,000.00 in cash.
In February 2016, Justice Phelan in the Allard decision deemed the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations unconstitutional and validated the role dispensaries play in providing patients with access to medical cannabis. He gave the federal government until August 24th 2016 to amend the MMPR to respect our rights and freedoms under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. With a change expected in but a few months, the use of millions of tax payer dollars in resources to launch and execute Project Claudia in questionable.
This sweep leaves a significant void in dignified access for patients in Toronto. It seems that the most vulnerable have been forgotten yet again. Should you live in Toronto, we invite you to contact your city Councillor to voice your concerns with the measures taken by the TPS and the lack of consultation with the dispensaries by the City of Toronto.