More Raids on Dispensaries? What in Tarnation?

16 Sep 2019

The recent raids on medical cannabis dispensaries in the cities of Nanaimo and Toronto remind us how tenuous is the situation for storefront providers of cannabis

medicine. They depend on the charity, good will and enlightened attitudes of city councillors, law enforcement agents, health officials, neighbours, and anyone else with clout. Doctors remain uneducated; and scientists and journalists range from supportive to damning. There is no solid ground. Recent Canadian court cases have determined that cannabis may be consumed in Canada in a variety of ways; and that forcing patients to buy from LPs is not in keeping with their rights as laid out by Section Seven of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, namely, the rights to life, liberty, and security of the person. But Supreme Court judges can offer little remedy for the ignorance and meanness of local authorities when they mouth support for cannabis but obstruct patient access.

And judging from the number of raids in Toronto (43), obstructing patient access was probably their greatest overall effect, maybe even their key effect. Legal cannabis is useless to patients if it is not accessible. This point was emphasized in 2003, in the case of Hitzig v. Canada, where the Ontario Superior Court ordered the federal government to arrange for legal supply. It was clarified further in 2015 when the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed patients’ rights to consume cannabis extracts. Then in 2016 in the case of Allard v Canada, the BC Federal Court acknowledged dispensaries as central to patient access, and as noted earlier, pronounced it unconstitutional to force patients to buy from LPs, or to deny them the right to grow plants. If you stitch these decisions together you should not be able to find your way to raiding dispensaries, arresting people, stealing their inventory, and flaunting the catch at a press conference for every world nation and enterprising extra-terrestrial to see. Unless, of course, you still have no idea what access means. Or you do, but rely on the ignorance of the general population to push an undeclared agenda.

If you need cannabis concentrates, capsules, suppositories, tinctures, topical salves and ointments, or edibles, you must make them yourself, or go to a medical cannabis dispensary. These medicines are not available elsewhere. Many patients are too ill to make medicines, and making concentrates at home can be dangerous, so dispensaries are the best access points. Yet this past week, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders (successor to Bill Blair) prefaced his post raid remarks by saying that the raids were not about attacking lawful access to medical cannabis. Lawful access as the Toronto police see it, is access via LPs. Has it not just been established that forcing patients to buy from LPs is unjust? And what of the specific medicines? Doesn’t some authority in Toronto know anything about them? Herein lies the folly of appointing law enforcement officers as gatekeepers to medicines. They have no feeling for the subject, and no appropriate training.
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