Pubdate: Mon, 08 Feb 2010
Source: Nunavut News North (CN NU)
Page: 3
Copyright: 2010 Northern News Services Limited
Author: Kassina Ryder
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)


Charges Laid Against Two Men Involved With Qikiqtaaluk Compassionate Society

IQALUIT - The RCMP raided Nunavut's first compassion club selling 
marijuana for medicinal use Jan. 29, and charged two men with drug trafficking.

Police seized two pounds of marijuana, $7,200 in cash, a GMC Yukon 
and trafficking materials during a search of two Iqaluit residences, 
according to an RCMP press release.

Ed deVries, 51, was charged with possession of marijuana for the 
purpose of trafficking and possession of proceeds of crime. Sakku 
Kripinak, 30, was charged with one count of possession of marijuana 
for the purpose of trafficking.

Both are members and organizers of the Qikiqtaaluk Compassionate 
Society, which received societal status under the Nunavut Societies 
Act on Dec. 14.

DeVries was released with conditions and is next scheduled to appear 
in court on Feb. 15. Kripinak was also released and is scheduled to 
appear in court on May 7.

"I know that Mr. deVries was subject of the search and seizure and 
subsequent charges," RCMP Supt. Steve McVarnock said. "But again, 
whether or not it was in relation to his club or whether it was 
personal, that's all got to come out in the court process."

When pressed about the relationship between the bust and the 
compassion club, McVarnock said: "My understanding is that it is 
associated. The compassion club is associated to the investigation."

In an interview prior to his arrest, deVries said more than 500 
people in Iqaluit, a city of nearly 7,000 people, were registered 
with the society, including elders, and the list was growing.

"We're not in hiding. We're in an appropriate downtown location that 
is respectful to the neighbourhood," he said. "We run controlled 
hours, very strict hours, and we're acting in respect to the neighbourhood."

The club, which deVries said sold marijuana for medical use, is 
modelled after southern compassion clubs.

Clients must sign up before purchasing marijuana from the club and 
there is a 10 gram limit per day.

DeVries said he hoped making the club an official society under the 
Nunavut Societies Act would help change public perception about marijuana.

"I think the validation by our government will allow a lot of people 
who have been holding back to give them a little more confidence to 
come forward," he said. "It's given the people of Iqaluit that have 
come to the compassion club a different perspective on herbal cures."

In December, deVries said the society had made contact with an RCMP 
liaison to discuss the society's activities, but had yet to receive a response.

McVarnock said the RCMP's role is to enforce the law.

"Basically the RCMP, we have no position on a compassion club. We 
look at drugs and drug trafficking in the context of the legislation 
we have to work with," he said.

The society was hoping to get an exemption under section 56 of the 
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which allows possession of a 
controlled substance if "the exemption is necessary for a medical or 
scientific purpose or is otherwise in the public interest," according 
to the act.

"We'll be presenting a petition plea to our ministers at all levels 
and our health representatives to grant the society that exemption," 
deVries said in December.

But even with an exemption, compassion clubs are illegal in Canada, 
according to Health Canada.

"The only organization that can legally supply marijuana seeds and 
dried marijuana is the Government of Canada, who currently obtains 
its supply from Prairie Plant Systems. This supply can only be 
accessed by individuals who have applied for authorization to possess 
marijuana for medical purposes and have received this authorization 
from Health Canada," according to a statement e-mailed to Nunavut 
News/North from Health Canada media relations officer Philippe Laroche.

The Marijuana Medical Access Regulations only apply to individuals 
for personal use.

"Once approved under the MMAR, individuals have three options for 
obtaining a supply: they can apply under the MMAR to access Health 
Canada's supply of dried marijuana; they can apply for a personal use 
production licence, or they can designate someone to cultivate on 
their behalf with a designated-person production licence," stated the 
e-mail from Laroche.

"I guess it's time to change the law, that's my stance on it," deVries said.

In an interview with Nunavut News/North before the bust, Qikiqtaaluk 
Compassionate Society media representative Eric Idlaut said the idea 
of a compassion club was becoming popular in Nunavut's other communities.

"We're receiving a lot of inquiries from smaller communities on how 
to become members with our society," Idlaut said. "The first inquiry 
is how to become members of our society and how they can come up with 
a compassionate society in their own communities."

Elders who use marijuana as medicine would benefit from having a 
place they can obtain it without having to pay street prices, Idlaut said.

"Looking at prices being paid for medicine in smaller communities, 
it's crazy especially when elders are paying almost $100 (a gram)," 
he said. "When you reduce it to $7 (a gram) that's a huge difference."

DeVries said the club will focus on assisting Iqalummiut with 
applying to Health Canada under the medical access regulations for 
marijuana for personal use.

He added that people in Iqaluit will still purchase marijuana, 
whether it is purchased from a compassion club or off the street.

"You don't take away people's medicine just because the doctor died," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom