Mounties' pot bust leaves Victoria patients without supply

May 29, 2004

Sandra McCulloch, Times Colonist

The seizure by Mounties of marijuana plants from an East Sooke home and outbuilding last week means 390 ill people will now have to rely on the black market for their supply, said Phillippe Lucas, president of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society. On Thursday, West Shore RCMP officers acting on a search warrant raided a home and outbuilding in the 5000-block of Mount Matheson Road. They arrested two men, one of whom was a paid caretaker and the other a friend who stopped by, said Lucas. The two men face charges of growing and trafficking in marijuana. Their names have not been released.

Police described the grow operation as very sophisticated and Lucas agrees with the assessment.

'It produced the absolutely safest and most standardized medicinal cannabis supply in Canada,' he said Saturday.

The Vancouver Island Compassion Society provides marijuana to its members for medical purposes. Lucas faced marijuana trafficking charges in July 2002 but provincial court Judge Robert Higinbotham threw out the case on the basis that Lucas was trying to lessen the suffering of others.

'He provided that which the government was unable to provide -- a safe and high quality supply of marijuana to those needing it for medicinal purposes,' said Higinbotham in his July 5, 2002 ruling.

The compassion society ran a lab-style marijuana-production and research facility in East Sooke to benefit people suffering from critical and chronic illnesses, said Lucas.

'It's a house with a converted outer building (where) three people were legally allowed to grow 70 plants at the location. I can account for every single gram that's produced there.'

The plants included 35 different strains that were tailored to treat different medical conditions, he said.

The police raid will have 'a very dramatic effect' on the society, said Lucas.

'For the last 15 months we've been off the black market completely and solely dependent on this facility for our supply. Now we're back on the black market.'

Lucas said he got a phone call from the RCMP Thursday, before the plants were cut down.

'They were trying to clarify with Health Canada how many plants were legally allowed to be grown there.'

But that clarification couldn't be made, Lucas said, since Health Canada's offices in Ottawa were closed for the day.

Calls to West Shore RCMP investigators of the case were not returned Saturday.

Lucas will now line up some sympathetic growers to supply the society members. And he'll be asking the Crown prosecutors to drop charges on the basis the marijuana was being grown for medicinal purposes.

'It's a very frustrating situation, and it's definitely going to be a major setback for the organization.'

© Copyright  2004 Times Colonist (Victoria)



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