Pubdate: Wed, 31 May 2017
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Greg Mercer
Page: B1


KITCHENER - The manager of the region's only compassion club for
people with medical marijuana licences says she's still doing what she
can to help her members - after a police crackdown sent her patients
"to the street."

Sandra Thornton's cellphone is ringing seven days a week with people
calling with questions about marijuana they're buying from
street-level drug dealers, asking how they can cook with it or turn it
into a baked good that's easier for them to consume.

Until March, those same patients could buy their cannabis directly
from Organix Compassion's office on Victoria Street. Thornton shut the
club down after police raided another King Street dispensary and
warned the region's other marijuana dispensers they could be next.

While some of her club's 700 members have begun buying from federally
licensed producers, many more are turning to the black market,
Thornton said. That comes with its own concerns.

"You never know what you're getting from the street," she said. "You
don't what they're lacing the pot with, and that is always a fear .
. These guys on the street, they're just getting anything they can
get, wherever they can get it."

But while she says her club is no longer dispensing medical marijuana,
she's still maintaining her website and answering her phone, trying to
assist her members by offering dosage, cooking and other tips for
people with a range of medical ailments from cancer to Lyme disease.

"What I'm hearing from people is a lot of crying," she said. "They're
still calling and asking questions, so at least I'm able to help them
that way. But it ties me up, because I can't turn around and show
them. They no longer have a safe space to get what they need."

Those who are buying through the legal route say some of the marijuana
they're getting mailed to them is sometimes unusable, she said.

"I have a guy who said if he smokes the stuff he gets from his
(licensed producer), he gets chest pains," she said. "So he's got
$1,000 worth of product from his (licensed producer) sitting in his
basement, because he can't do anything with it."

Since Waterloo Regional Police cracked down on dispensaries this
winter, forcing five to close their doors, three dispensaries have
since reopened and flouted repeated warnings.

But Thornton says she doesn't want to risk reopening her club's

"If you can afford to pay those fines, then go for it. But I'm not
going to risk that, I'm not going to put my clients at risk," she said.

The latest bust came last week, when a dispensary on Samuelson Street
in Cambridge was raided and a 29-year-old man and 21-yearold woman
were arrested.

On May 11, officers descended on the KW Dispensary on Victoria Street,
and the previous month they raided the Green Tree Medical Dispensary
on King Street East. That location reopened a month later under "new
management" but closed again after another visit from police.

Police have repeatedly warned the local dispensaries they remain
illegal businesses, despite looming legalization of recreational
marijuana planned for July 2018.

Thornton, meanwhile, is urging her members to write politicians and
lobby for exemptions for cannabis compassion clubs that she says serve
an important role in the health-care system.

"We need people to write to our MPs and Justin Trudeau, and tell them
how pissed off we are," she said. "They should leave the compassion
clubs alone, because those places have people who know what they're
talking about, and they have a place in society."
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