Pubdate: Thu, 16 Sep 2010
Source: Peterborough Examiner, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2010 Osprey Media Group Inc.
Author: Galen Eagle


When he learned police had raided his room, seized his pot and charged
him with producing and possessing marijuana, Les Petherick said he was

"I didn't actually believe it. I thought I was safe as I could be," he

The 46-year-old has been a licensed medical marijuana user since May
2009. He's allowed to grow up to 15 marijuana plants, store 1,500
grams and possess 120 grams.

He consumes it as medication for a serious back injury that causes him
constant pain.

But since his card expired in May, with each licence being good for
one year, Petherick says he has been waiting nearly four months to
receive a renewed card.

He was worried he was vulnerable, but said he was assured by his local
doctor, who issued his marijuana prescription, and Health Canada,
which runs the medical marijuana program, that he would be "fine" if
he just held on to his old expired card.

"I was always afraid this could happen," he said.

Police executed a drug warrant Sept. 1 at the Barnardo St. home where
Petherick rents a room.

At the home, officers seized eight marijuana plants, about four grams
of marijuana and grow equipment, police said, estimating the seizure
at $8,500.

In addition, officers said Petherick had rigged up a trap to protect
his grow-op.

Officers found several wooden boards with nails sticking through them
strategically placed along the property's backyard fence line, police

The boards caused a dangerous and hazardous condition, police

While Petherick wasn't home at the time of the raid, he later turned
himself in at the police station and was charged with production of a
controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance and setting
a trap likely to cause bodily harm.

The notion that he had set up any trap is ludicrous, Petherick

A carpenter had recently been at the house doing work and was testing
a malfunctioning nail gun in the backyard by shooting nails into a
piece of wood, Petherick said.

The carpenter left the board in the backyard near the fence, he

City police Sgt. Walter DiClemente said that's an issue for the courts
to decide.

"The way the evidence was found by the officers, they found enough
grounds to lay a charge," he said. "Any defence or alibi ... should be
brought before the courts and allow justice to decide."

As for the expired medical marijuana licence, DiClemente said, it was
a black or white issue. When a card expires, the individual is no
longer allowed to legally possess or grow marijuana.

"If their card has been expired, it's just like a driver's licence,"
he said. "It expires, you're no longer allowed to drive."

Vycki Fleming, a local medical marijuana advocate, has been a medical
marijuana user for four years and says she has battled constant delays
with her licence every year.

She too recently waited up to four months to receive her renewal and
says the federal government is discriminating against medical
marijuana users by putting up roadblocks to marijuana access.

"I don't understand the constant renewal of the card," she said.
"There is no other drug that I'm required to apply to Health Canada
for and wait four to five months to obtain my medicine."

Fleming said she will be renewing her card for the rest of her

"The cards have to be renewed every year even though my condition will
never change and can never be helped," she said. "Every other
prescription, as soon as my doctor signs the prescription and as soon
as it has been paid for at the pharmacy, I can have it."

Health Canada did not make an official available for comment, but did
provide a written response to concerns raised by The Examiner.

The agency said it strives to process applications within eight to 10
weeks, but admits delays have been occurring do to a "sharp increase"
in new applications. It didn't say how long those delays typically

In June, the agency's Marijuana Medical Access Division received 515
new applications, more than double the 253 new applications it
received last June, it said.

Health Canada said it has implemented a new strategy to decrease wait
times, but did not elaborate.

It also said wait times depend on a number of factors including when
the application was submitted and whether all the necessar y
information had been provided.

The agency said users must have a valid authorization and/or licence
to possess or produce marijuana or else they run the risk of becoming
subject to law enforcement measures.

But in a case of an individual whose production licence has expired,
Health Canada said it can disclose to police investigators whether an
application has been made to renew the licence prior to the date of
expiry as well as the status of the application.

Health Canada is currently considering longer-term measures to reform
the Marihuana Medical Access Program focusing on public health, safety
and security; reasonable access to marihuana for medical purposes and
examining the overall costs to Health Canada, it said.

As for Petherick, he plans to fight his charges in court, but said
entering the justice system has been a humiliating experience so far.

"I'm not a criminal," he said.
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