Medical marijuana patients and supporters took to the streets of Toronto Saturday to protest last week's raid on the Toronto Compassion Center, a medical marijuana dispensary, and to lambaste Health Minister Anne McClellan for indefinitely delaying the start of the Canadian government's long-promised medical marijuana program (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/251.html#healthcanada). While the Canadian government has dithered on medical marijuana, providers like the Toronto Compassion Center have sprung up to supply the needs of cannabis patients. Before it was raided last week, the Toronto center was providing medicinal marijuana to 1,200 patients.
About 100 medical marijuana supporters took their medicine in front of the Justice Department offices in Toronto on Saturday, the Toronto Star reported. "We operated for four years with impunity," said criminal lawyer Alan Young, one of the center's founders. "The police knew about it and for reasons that will never be completely understood be me, they raided them last week and put them out of business," he told the Star.
Young and three others were charged with trafficking in a controlled substance and possession for the purpose of trafficking.
The demonstrators' anger was further fueled by McClellan's announcement last week that she would delay the release of medical marijuana grown under government contract pending clinical studies -- which have yet to begin. "Either the government has to provide the medicine or they have to allow the clubs to operate," said Young.
You can't give the protests all the credit -- McClellan's move was widely attacked in the Canadian press -- but by Monday the Health Minister was moving away from last week's position, rhetorically if not practically. During a Monday press conference, McLellan bristled at charges she was killing the program. "In fact, far from shelving it, what we're doing is implementing the second stage," she claimed. The first stage was the passing of legislation last year enabling persons with specified illnesses to use the weed. The second stage, which came as a surprise to all but McLellan, is clinical trials, she said.
"If we let it go on the market and somebody died, you people would be the first to say: 'Oh, look, there's the Department of Health not discharging its responsibility in relation to protecting the safety and security of Canadians,'" she ventured.
Also, McLellan claimed, the government delayed clinical trials because its first contracted crop wasn't standardized and therefore wasn't suitable for trials. But Health Canada in December said the first crop was quality-tested and ready for distribution to patients. A department spokesman could not explain the discrepancy.