Pubdate: Sat, 07 Nov 2015
Source: Barrie Examiner (CN ON)
Copyright: 2015, Barrie Examiner
Author: Cheryl Browne
Page: A1


INNISFIL - Sitting in his wheelchair with his hands curled in his 
lap, 34-year-old Charles Quesnel is hoping the legalization of 
marijuana comes sooner rather than later.

A shot of Charles Quesnel, of Innisfil, gardening last summer before 
being arrested and charged for possession and production of marijuana.

It probably won't come before his court date, where he'll face a 
judge to explain why he had 400 plants growing on his eight acres in 
Innisfil in mid-September.

But, the mostly quadriplegic man who lost most of the use of his 
hands and legs when he took a bad bounce on a trampoline 20 years 
ago, said he's hoping last year's medical marijuana grow certificate 
will be taken into consideration by the judge, as looming pressure by 
the new Liberal government to legalize his "medicine" seems to be on 
the not-to-distant horizon.

"Everybody should be allowed to have two or three plants," Quesnel said.

"It would be cool if they appointed people to grow it. It's 
ridiculously easy to grow from seed. I was growing my plants like a 
garden, like you would with tomatoes," he said.

Although Quesnel can stand, he suffers from limited mobility in his 
feet and hands and uses marijuana to quell leg muscle and abdominal spasms.

In 2014, Quesnel had approval from Health Canada to grow 88 marijuana 
plants in his home on Cumberland Street in Barrie. However, the 
paperwork wasn't updated when he moved to Innisfil, which led to 
charges of illegally growing marijuana in September.

At an Orillia Police Service Board meeting recently, Orillia OPP 
Insp. Pat Morris agreed there are already challenges for police 
regarding medical marijuana grow operations.

"There are a lot of grey areas. It's not black and white," Morris said.

As an example, he said, people living in the area who might have 
Health Canada approval to grow 300 plants for medicinal use, are 
found in possession of a greater quantity and tell police they are 
growing for another approved medicinal marijuana certificate holder.

"There are many growers in this area registered with the federal 
Ministry of Health," Morris said.

At the Simcoe Holistic Health shop on Dunlop Street West, director 
Justin Whitehall said while he supports whatever new legislation may 
come down the pipe, he points out medical marijuana is undergoing 
clinical trials, whereas recreational marijuana doesn't get the same 
clinical attention and often has different strains and effects.

"I'm concerned it could hinder research related to the plant as 
medicine," Whitehall said. Yet, he said if marijuana was legalized, 
he would support the legislation.

"We hope the Liberal government allows clinics licenses to distribute 
marijuana, and we will be one of the first to apply for a license," he said.

But he notes conversations with clinics in Colorado reveal there are 
two types of customers; those who pay retail and high taxes, and 
those who have a medical requirement and can access the drug more 
cheaply. "There's still a benefit to being a medical customer," he said.

Morris noted since marijuana remains a controlled substance, police 
will continue to enforce laws pertaining to it for those without 
Health Canada approval.

That said, Morris noted legalizing pot would mean a shift of police 
resources to other areas, but it might also mean officers make more 
impaired-driving arrests related to the drug.

"If marijuana were to be legalized, it will change our workload and 
training requirements," he said.

On Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's RealChange website, he states, "We 
will legalize, regulate and restrict access to marijuana. Canada's 
current system of marijuana prohibition does not work.

It does not prevent young people from using marijuana and too many 
Canadians end up with criminal records for possessing small amounts 
of the drug.

"Arresting and prosecuting these offenses is expensive for our 
criminal justice system," the PM adds. "It traps too many Canadians 
in the criminal justice system for minor, non-violent offenses. At 
the same time, the proceeds from the illegal drug trade support 
organized crime and greater threats to public safety, like human 
trafficking and hard drugs."

And that's where both Barrie Chief of Police Kimberley Greenwood and 
head of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police Clive Weighill 
have concens with the proposed legislation of marijuana.

"It's very hard to speculate how it would impact large or small urban 
cities," Greenwood said. "But I have concerns about all the crimes 
associated with drug use, like the murders, home invasions, thefts 
and robberies. It's not as simple as legalizing marijuana."

Greenwood said her interests fall with ensuring the safety and 
security for all residents is taken into consideration before any 
changes to current drug legislation.

"Enforcement, awareness, education. It's all part in parcel of what 
we do. I'd be very cautious when we look to change legislation. Look 
at the response to drinking and driving," Greenwood said.

"There's been a huge enforcement and awareness educational component 
to it, but we're still seeing people getting behind the wheel of a 
car after drinking," she said.

Weighill, who is Saskatoon's chief of police, just returned from 
Chicago after representing Canada as the chief of the association at 
the international conference.

After only eight months of legalization of marijuana in Colorado, 
Weighill said it's too early to tell what sort of effect legal pot is 
having on crime and law enforcement there.

On its website, the Canadian chiefs association stated in 2013 that 
it would like to see the legalization rules changed to allow 
possession of pot of under 30 grams allowed.

This would free up officers, lawyers and court staff's time - and 
save millions of dollars in associated fees annually - but Weighill 
pointed out that police chiefs don't dictate policy.

"Trudeau said he'd create a task force and I'm hoping he will invite 
us to the table to discuss the legal minimums and maximums we'd like 
to see," he said.

Weighill agrees with Greenwood's concerns that peripheral crimes 
could rise and overshadow a legal system.

"Even if it's legalized, there could still be a black market where 
they try to price it lower than legal marijuana. There's still a lot 
to be worked out in the framework and we don't know where we're going 
with it yet," he said.

"Every police service in Canada knows marijuana and cocaine are a big 
commodity here and we spend a lot time on drug enforcement.

"I suspect even if it gets legalized, we're going to spend a lot of 
time on the black-market issues," Weighill added.

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