Pubdate: Wed, 29 Mar 2017
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Greg Mercer
Page: B1


KITCHENER - A local medical cannabis advocate says he hopes Waterloo
Region's marijuana dispensaries closed in a recent crackdown by police
can reopen under impending legalization planned by Ottawa.

Peter Thurley is a former federal NDP candidate and one of 700 medical
marijuana users shut out of the Organix Compassion club when it closed
its doors this month after pressure from police.

That's why the news the Liberal government is planning legislation
that will legalize recreational marijuana use by Canada Day 2018
presents an odd contradiction for people like him.

Medical cannabis users are happy the government has reconfirmed it
wants to change the laws, but angry that a recent police crackdown on
dispensaries has left some of those users turning to the black market
in the meantime, he said.

The prime minister has stressed marijuana remains illegal until
legislation passes, and police across the country have been busy
conducting a series of raids on illegal storefront

Waterloo Regional Police shut down five marijuana dispensaries in
Waterloo Region in the last month alone - including Organix, the
city's oldest compassion club for licensed medicinal cannabis users.

"These law enforcement crackdowns have been coming directly at the
public command of the prime minister," said Thurley, who has a
prescription to treat chronic nerve pain from major stomach surgery.

"So now it's kind of watch and wait. And that's the unfortunate effect
of these crackdowns. Any time you put the fear of God into these
people, they have to be able to look out for their patients ... It's a
pretty crappy situation for these folks to be in."

Thurley hopes the latest legalization plans from the Trudeau
government, which has been promising new legislation since 2015, means
other dispensaries get a bit of reprieve from police

He encourages people to lobby their MPs and MPPs, especially since
Ottawa will leave many decisions around regulation up to the provinces.

Thurley also argues the same dispensaries closed by police are the
best ones to help the public buy marijuana and allow medicinal users
to access their medicine. Currently, the only legal way to buy medical
marijuana is through a mail-order system.

"People are going to have to speak up. We want storefronts, and we
think that the people who currently run them are well-positioned to do
so. They deserve a seat at the table," he said.

But there remain a lot of questions about what legalization in Ontario
might look like.

"I'm mostly looking for openness and access," Thurley said. "But
outside of a few details, there's not a whole lot here. There's not a
whole lot of meat and potatoes yet."

Meanwhile, four employees charged in a raid on Kitchener's Green Tree
Medical Dispensary on March 10 - three women and a man ranging from 19
to 28 years old - are hiring lawyers and facing drug trafficking
charges in court.

Darwin Witmer, a Kitchener criminal lawyer who is being retained by
one of the accused, said the news out of Ottawa makes it a little
unusual to be defending a case that may not be resolved by the time
the laws change. "It's interesting there's a target date now for
legalization of marijuana in Canada," Witmer said.

"Obviously, some people have thought they might be able to take
advantage of the knowledge it's on its way in, and maybe thought they
could become part of the legal dispensing of marijuana."
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