Pubdate: Wed, 19 Jul 2017
Source: Brandon Sun (CN MB)
Copyright: 2017, Brandon Sun
Author: Ian Hitchen



Health Canada says police officers can call them any time when it
comes to confirming whether citizens have legal authority to produce
and possess medicinal marijuana.

The department's ability to notify police of those who legitimately
possess cannabis for that purpose was recently criticized in a lawsuit
launched by a Brandon couple whose legal medical grow-op was
mistakenly raided by RCMP.

"Health Canada negligently administered a system of license retention
and issuance notification by failing to establish and maintain proper
protocols for notice to arresting authorities … as to the legitimacy
of licenses such as those held by persons such as the plaintiffs, and
the plaintiffs in particular," Jerry Pomehichuk and Brenda Wakefield
assert in their statement of claim.

The lawsuit filed against three RCMP officers, the force itself,
Health Canada and others was filed last month. The Brandon Sun wrote
about the lawsuit last week, but Health Canada and RCMP have
since responded to requests for comment.

Police raided the couple's grow operation, within their warehouse on
the city's edge, on June 21, 2015. They seized 206 marijuana plants
and five kilograms of dried marijuana.

Pomehichuk was arrested and charged with drug possession offences that
were later dropped after it was learned that the couple had valid
licences for the production and possession of medical marijuana.

The couple asserts they were well within their limit of 292 plants,
which would seem to be confirmed by the fact the court later agreed to
drop the charges against Pomehichuk.

The couple is suing for what they describe as the unlawful search and
seizure, Pomehichuk's unlawful arrest, damage done to the warehouse
during the raid, and because the plants were destroyed before police
could return them as the court required when the charges were dropped.

According to the lawsuit, RCMP contacted Health Canada to determine if
the couple had licences, but were only told there were no "business"

Those authorized to have medicinal marijuana can produce it themselves
or have another party produce it on their behalf, Health Canada has

The lawsuit claims that an officer sent the department the names and
addresses for Pomehichuk and Wakefield to confirm whether they had
valid licences, but Health Canada didn't immediately respond.

The claim states that police got a warrant and raided the warehouse
anyway. Shortly after the raid, Health Canada informed police that
Pomehichuk and Wakefield had valid licences to produce and possess
medical marijuana.

RCMP has previously told The Brandon Sun that the mistake was due to
miscommunication with Health Canada.

Health Canada stated police can call them any time to confirm whether
someone is authorized to produce and possess marijuana for medical

"Health Canada supports law enforcement representatives by providing a
dedicated phone line that is accessible 24 hours per day and seven
days a week to confirm, when necessary, that specific individuals are
authorized to possess or produce a limited amount of cannabis for
medical purposes," department spokesperson, Tammy Jarbeau, stated in
an email provided on Wednesday.

Jarbeau said the phone line was introduced in the early 2000s with the
beginning of the medical cannabis program.

Otherwise, Jarbeau stated, it would be inappropriate for Health Canada
to comment on the case because the matter is before the courts.

Manitoba RCMP also responded on Wednesday, stating that the force also
couldn't comment on the case for the same reason.

However, spokesperson Tara Seel confirmed that in such cases Justice
Canada lawyers represent both the force and its individual officers
(provided that the actions in question were performed in the course of
the officers' duties.) The force and its officers don't incur legal
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