Compassion club raided, names taken

December 28, 2006

Neil Horne, Parksville Qualicum News (Canada)

The Mid-Island Compassion Club has been busted.

Mark Russell, the founder of the Coombs chapter of the Cannabis Buyers Club of Canada, who supplies marijuana to sick people who use it for pain relief, was raided by members of the Courtenay RCMP on Dec. 22 and now faces six counts of trafficking in a controlled substance.

“They came to the house at noon with a warrant and asked me to open the safe,” says Russell. “They removed our medicine, documents, paperwork, client lists, everything.”

Russell, who has run the Mid Island Compassion Club for the past five years and who has 85 clients, was taken to the Oceanside RCMP station in Parksville, fingerprinted and released.

“They were here for a total of about three hours,” the Dashwood residents says. “I was ordered not to continue running the club or they would arrest me. I feel sick about this. Stunned.”

Russell says he doesn’t sell marijuana to people off the street, but strictly to sick people who use it for pain relief, and to their caregivers.

“We deal strictly with people who have medical conditions,” he says. “They have to prove they have a medical condition before they can join the club.”

Before they took his membership lists away, RCMP let Russell photocopy them for his own records — but not, he says, before they blacked out one name.

“One undercover officer came as a club member,” he says.

“He said he had a brain tumor and he signed up with the paperwork saying he had a brain tumor. He had a caregiver signed in as well.”

Courtenay RCMP Constable Derek Kryzanowzki says the search warrant came as the result of an ongoing investigation that had been in progress for over a year.

“Essentially it was an ongoing investigation that culminated in getting a search warrant because of illegal activity going on there, which was trafficking in marijuana.”

Kryzanowzki says the bust was not part of a coordinated campaign against medical marijuana compassion clubs, nor was it instigated by a complaint from the general public.

“It was self-generated through one of the members in the drug section who initiated the investigation,” he says.

Kryzanowzki says police have no interest in going after the people on Russell’s client list.

“They (the names) are going to be returned to him and were not even recorded,” he says. “They have no bearing on the case. We are strictly looking at (Russel) for trafficking and we have no interest in his so-called clients. I have no copies of them and they are sealed up.”

He says police seized approximately 390 grams of marijuana in the bust.

Russell says he plans to stop selling the marijuana for now, although he says the compassion club will continue to operate.

“There is a need for it,” he says. “We provide security for these people. They know they can come to us and get quality product when they need it and they don’t have to worry about all the problems associated with dealing with the black market.”

Russell says the compassion club has always been a money-losing proposition for him and he makes ends meet by taking on odd jobs such as driving a cab.

“I’ve never made a living at it. I don’t sell that much,” he says. “I’m not in the same category as a regular pot dealer.”



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