Pubdate: Fri, 04 Jun 2010
Source: Montreal Gazette (CN QU)
Copyright: 2010 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Jan Ranensbergen, The Gazette


Pot 'Compassion Centres'; $10,000 In Cash And 35 Suspects

A Lachine medical-marijuana-distribution shop - which raised eyebrows
by openly operating for months within eyesight of that borough's
police station - has been put authoritatively out of business.

A sweeping police crackdown Thursday shut all four such "compassion
centres" operating on Montreal Island.

More than 80 officers equipped with search warrants were deployed to a
total of nine locations, five of them private homes of suspects
involved in the retail outlets.

When it was all over, they had rounded up 35 suspects and seized 59
kilograms of pot, a small quantity of hashish and about $10,000 in

"There were days when we observed more than 200 people going in and
out" of the Culture 420 Compassion Club in Lachine, on 15th Ave. near
the corner of Notre Dame St. W., Commander Antonio Iannantuoni said.

The clampdown simultaneously shut two other medical-pot shops in
Plateau Mont Royal borough, and a fourth on Papineau Ave. in the east
end. It was conducted in co-ordination with a raid that closed a
compassion centre in Quebec City.

All had been selling pot, openly and in significant quantities, to
walk-in clients who said they needed the drug for medical reasons.

One person with an easily obtained notarized attestation of medical
need, without such proof as a doctor's certificate, was all that was
needed for groups of three or four people to load up at the Lachine
outlet, nearby residents said.

To his knowledge, Iannantuoni said, all medical-pot points of sale in
Quebec have been shut.

Most clients of the Lachine shop were under the age of 35, Iannantuoni
said, citing reports filed by his investigators.

Neighbours agreed that the vast majority of the pot shop's clientele
appeared young and healthy. They scoffed at any suggestion each pot
buyer could have a medical condition that would be alleviated with
marijuana consumption.

About five kilograms of pot was seized in the Lachine shop,
Iannantuoni added. Eleven people were arrested.

Among the arrested was Marc-Boris St-Maurice, founding leader of the
Bloc Pot and the Marijuana Party of Canada. He is also founder and
president of the Montreal Compassion Club.

The outlet's website listed an eye-opening pre-bust "daily menu"
offering a dozen varieties of pot, like Crack Berry, Cherry Bombs and
Blue Haze. All but one strain were listed for $12 a gram, or seven
grams for $60.

Montreal police have decreed "zero tolerance" for the sale of pot,
Iannantuoni said, and are telling people with a legitimate medical
need for the drug to contact Health Canada.

Use and cultivation of marijuana for certain medical conditions has
been legal under Canadian law since 2001.

"But it is illegal to sell it," Iannantuoni said.

The suspects will face charges of trafficking and conspiracy, he

Unless suspects have outstanding arrest warrants, he said, all will
probably be released on conditions that would include renunciation of
any marijuana selling, coupled with a promise to appear in court.

The police probe revealed no links between the clubs and organized
crime, street gangs or motorcycle gangs, said Iannantuoni. He heads
the youth, morality and drug squad for the western part of Montreal
Island. He specified that only suspects involved in the distribution
were arrested.

Pot consumption is said to help relieve pain and provide other
benefits for cancer patients, people with brain injuries and others.

One man on the scene - interviewed between calls on his cellphone -
said he was a regular client, and expressed distress at the turn of
events, although not for any medical reason.

"I'm healthy - I just like to smoke the stuff," he said, asking that
only his first name, Philippe, be published.

Philippe said he would regularly pick up his supply at the pot shop,
accompanied by his brother, who has a notarized, sworn

Customers could also pick up what Philippe called "edibles" -
brownies, cookies and banana bread laced with pot, most priced at $7
apiece, according to the pot shop's Internet menu.

"It was just like going into any drug dealer's place," he said. "My
favourite was the Mango Kuss."

Where were all those different and rather exotic-sounding breeds of
pot grown?

"I don't ask where they get their stuff," Philippe

Iannantuoni said none of the raids came across any marijuana grow ops. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D