Pot easily accessible at Montreal club: report
An investigation by the French-language service of the CBC is raising questions about the ease with which it is possible to obtain marijuana from compassion clubs, which are intended to distribute the drug for medical purposes.
Ottawa offers only one strain of medical marijuana and the only legal way to purchase it is through Health Canada.
Compassion clubs exist in a legal grey zone, since the courts have argued that the government has not provided adequate services to meet the needs of those who say that medical marijuana helps relieve their pain.
An undercover reporter with the Radio-Canada program Enquête visited the Culture 420 Compassion Club in Montreal's Lachine district, which says it offers the drug for those who need it to help alleviate pain or symptoms caused by a chronic medical problem.
After explaining that he needed the drug to deal with migraine headaches, the reporter was told he would have to provide a doctor's note or a sworn declaration from a commissioner of oaths.
A staff member suggested the reporter say that he was suffering from chronic pain and directed him to a building down the street.
There, a commissioner of oaths was waiting to sign a declaration, for a $10 fee.
After his declaration was accepted, the reporter was told he could get a maximum of 40 grams of the drug per week, the equivalent of three to six marijuana cigarettes per day.
He was told he was not permitted to share his dose with others, but could get a bonus for bringing in new members.
Administrators at the compassion club said they get as many as 300 visitors each day.
City officials unhappy
The club recently opened a second location in Montreal's Mile End neighbourhood and co-ordinators said they are hoping to open 250 other clubs across the country.
But Lachine Borough Mayor Claude Dauphin said he believes the club is illegal and has asked the city's legal department and police to investigate.
Dauphin said owners of the club have told him that only about 15 per cent of its members have an authorization from Health Canada. He said people living near the compassion club are worried about their safety, adding that many of the people who visit the club don't appear to be ill.
"The place isn't even accessible," Dauphin said. "A person with a wheelchair could not go there."
The debate over access to marijuana should take place in Ottawa and not in Lachine, said Dauphin.
The Lachine club first garnered attention in March after its co-founder, Gary Webber, was the victim of a home invasion. Thieves took only his laptop computer and the keys to the club.
In previous interviews, Webber has defended the club.
Webber said all clients of the club have a medical requirement and meet standards set by Health Canada and the Supreme Court to use medical marijuana.
"I wasn't aware that I lived in a city where our city councillors also claimed the ability to judge medical requirements by a simple glance," said Webber.
A third compassion club in Montreal operates in the city's borough of Plateau Mont-Royal.
City police raided that club in 2000. But when the case went to trial, a judge ruled it was unconstitutional to deny people an opportunity to get marijuana after saying they could use the drug for medical reasons.