HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Marijuana Seized From MS Sufferer
Pubdate: Mon, 26 Aug 2002
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Page: A12
Copyright: The Hamilton Spectator 2002
Author: John Burman


Didn't Have Authorization When Charged

Smoke twirls above William Brown's head as he drags on his marijuana joint. 
A smile curls on his lips. He does not share.

He has "the green stuff" in a bag. He's got a few plants in his home but 
they're not ready to harvest.

Brown leans back in his girlfriend's kitchen, content but far from happy. 
That's because he is an authorized medicinal marijuana user who smokes to 
ease the near constant multiple sclerosis pain in his hands and he is 
facing a charge of possession of marijuana after Hamilton police stopped 
him and confiscated $225 worth of his "medicine."

A worn Health Canada registration letter in his pocket confirms he's 
entitled to possess, store and, if necessary, grow marijuana for medicinal use.

Brown's hands and fingers tingle and are painful, "much like how your foot 
feels if it is asleep and you try to walk on it. I smoke a joint and it 
doesn't hurt as much.

"The pain goes away."

He can't get marijuana supplied by Health Canada.

Ottawa still wants to study the potency of the crop it harvested from an 
underground bunker it operates in Manitoba.

That means Brown has to buy it from his "friends" at up to $300 an ounce 
because his own crop isn't ready.

"With the cost, it really hurts when nearly an ounce gets taken away when 
I'm allowed. I can't really afford to replace it. I need it."

The law covering possession of medicinal marijuana says a registered person 
must be able to provide a police officer with proof of the authorization on 

Brown is allowed to have 120 grams (four ounces) on his person, 20 plants 
in any stage of growth and 900 grams stored dry at his home.

He does not want to be specific about where his home is because he's been 
ripped off before.

Brown has received disability since an accident some years ago.

He does not have a car and rides a bicycle everywhere to and from his 
Barton Street East home.

He didn't have the authorization letter with him the night of July 28 when 
he was stopped on his bike near his girlfriend's home on Cochrane Street 
around 6 p.m after a few beers at a nearby bar.

That, said Detective Sergeant Rick Willis, head of the Hamilton police vice 
and drugs branch, could be the problem.

Taking care not to discuss Brown's case specifically, he said an authorized 
or exempted user is supposed to comply with the conditions of the exemption.

Willis said Brown was released after he was picked up July 28 and has been 
sent a summons to appear in court for possession.

Brown, who offered to go and get his authorization letter after being 
arrested, said he thought police stopped him because he was riding erratically.

"I have MS. I am not really steady on my bike and for the same reason I did 
not run. The officer saw that green stuff in my pocket and his eyes got 
big. I told him I am allowed and he took me to central station after 
arresting me."

Brown said he showed the officer a card he carries entitling him to buy 
marijuana at the Toronto Compassionate Centre.

"He said it meant nothing." At the police station, he was in the drunk tank 
for three hours and then released.

He was told the marijuana would be destroyed.

The incident upset Brown because, he said, he has been stopped twice before 
since he got his authorization last November and had no problems with police.

One officer even gave him a lift home.

Brown said Health Canada has yet to send out the authorization cards it 
promised when medical exemptions were approved.

The standard identification card would make things much easier for police 
and authorized users alike, he added.

Until then, he has to remember to take four pages of a folded letter with 
him everywhere he goes and is worried it will become illegible.

Police say marijuana seized in possession cases is held as evidence and 
whether the owner gets it back is up to the court.
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