Gov't forced to collect pot debts

By fatmanstan · Feb 7, 2006 · ·
  1. fatmanstan
    Mon, February 6, 2006
    Can I pay ya later?

    Gov't forced to collect pot debts

    By CP

    OTTAWA -- Like any dope dealer, Health Canada has its share of marijuana customers who just don't pay their bills.
    But unlike street pushers, the department avoids tire irons and switchblades to recover its bad debts in favour of stern letters and collection agencies.
    As of last month, 127 people authorized to buy government-certified marijuana for various medical problems were officially in arrears, with bills unpaid more than 90 days.

    OWE $168,879

    That's almost half the 278 patients who receive Health Canada marijuana or seeds, most of them buying 30-gram bags of ground buds for $150. A package of 30 seeds goes for $20.

    Altogether, patients in arrears now owe $168,879 to Health Canada for medical marijuana, produced on contract by Prairie Plant Systems Inc. for the federal government.
    The arrears amount has swollen by more than $100,000 over the last year alone, as department officials realized their medical marijuana policy never indicated to patients the consequences of not paying their drug bills.
    Spokesman Chris Williams says these patients now receive reminder letters and telephone calls from civil servants in the department's corporate services branch, and are given an opportunity to set up a repayment schedule.
    "If all that is rejected, the supply would be halted," he said in an interview. So far, 19 users have been cut off from further shipments because of non-payment.
    After 180 days, a final letter is sent and if no money arrives within 10 days, the matter is turned over to a collection agency, like any other account with Ottawa.
    One medical marijuana user and activist slammed the Health Department for requiring often-impoverished patients to buy the product, saying taxpayers have already footed the bill once.
    "The Canadian people have already paid for it -- I think it's absolutely horrible that we're charging them twice," said Alison Myrden of Burlington, Ont., who has lived with multiple sclerosis for more than a decade.
    "We have no money as it is. Most of us are on full disability for life ... It's a choice between marijuana or food for most of us."
    The first shipments of government marijuana in the fall of 2003 were of such poor quality, many medical users gagged, coughed and promptly returned the product. The batch was weak, dry, ground up too fine and included the less potent leaves and stems. In May 2004, a new batch was released, eliminating the stem and leaves. Made of flowering tops only, the new dope had a higher moisture content and stronger levels of THC, the main active ingredient, though the buds were still ground up to ensure consistency.

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  1. Solidly-here
    WOW! Good medical Pot for $150 an ounce.

    It's pretty funny, hearing people crying about the cost of their Medical Marijuana. A couple years ago, they had to buy ALL of their Pot on the streets, and now the Canadian government ships it do their doors (and at 50+% discounts over the street price).

    And, the Canadians are selling Pot seeds for ridiculously low prices (67 cents each).

    The government to our North is doing a great thing. With the USA breathing down their necks, they have legalized Medical Marijuana. And, a few months ago, they ALSO approved Sativex (Green Dragon) as a prescription drug.

    This sets the bar for the USA. The FDA has recently approved final testing for Sativex, so soon the USA will have Green Dragon available at the local Drug Stores too.
  2. Motorhead
    Yes solidly it seems like a good system we have in place. But like any government some people seem to fall through the cracks of beaurocratic mumbo jumbo. Check out this related story.
    Medical Pot Advocates Angry: Tom Shapiro Raid and Arrest
    by Dennis Bueckert, CP (05 Feb, 2006) From the Canadian Press, Ottawa
    [​IMG][SIZE=-2]Before the raid[/SIZE]Medical marijuana advocates are angry over the treatment of a Regina AIDS patient who was arrested after his pot licence expired.

    Tom Shapiro was handcuffed, along with his wife and son, for four hours while police tried to determine his status in Health Canada's medical marijuana program, said an official with the Canadian AIDS Society.

    "I'm very, very angry and upset at what happened," said Lynne Belle-Isle of the society, who has been in frequent contact with Shapiro since his house was raided Tuesday.

    "There seems to be a broken link in the communications at Health Canada.

    "We're talking about a very sick man who can barely walk. He's not exactly a threat to police or the community and he's been trying so hard to abide by the law."

    Tom Shapiro was being held at the Regina police station Thursday while officials tried to decide whether to charge him, his wife Roberta said
    in an interview.

    She said her husband's licence was delayed because Health Canada lost his photographs.

    "It was absolutely traumatic," she said, describing the raid carried out by eight police officers, four wearing balaclavas.

    After Health Canada confirmed that his licence had expired, the police removed 16 plants from his basement, she said.

    [​IMG][SIZE=-2]After the raid[/SIZE]Her husband is unwell and has been throwing up more often since his pot supply was confiscated, she said.

    Tom Shapiro has been using medical marijuana since 2001, she said. Health Canada faxed his new licence Thursday.

    Health Canada spokesman Chris Williams said he could not comment on individual cases, although he was aware of the Shapiro case.

    He said it normally takes six weeks to get a licence but people are encouraged to file the application in plenty of time.

    "As soon as a licence has expired, it's no longer valid," he said. "Ultimately, the issue rests with the police."

    Elizabeth Popowich, spokeswoman for the Regina police, confirmed the raid and said it would not be unusual for police to wear balaclavas or use handcuffs.

    "Executing a drug search is considered a high-risk warrant," she said. "I don't think it would be outside of normal procedure."

    She said investigators were interviewing Shapiro and had not decided whether to charge him.

    Alison Myrden, a Burlington, Ont., woman who uses marijuana to treat pain associated with multiple sclerosis, said many patients have trouble with the Health Canada process.

    "They put us through so many hoops it's a circus."

    In the states medical marijuana is handled state to state, while here in Canada its a federal policy blanketing the whole country. I thought our way would be better, but now we are dishing out bad credit for those who cant afford and arrest warrants for those who dont want to buy the govts pre-ground bud.:confused:

  3. Motorhead
    Tom Shapiro Vindicated: Gets Equipment Back
    by by Marc Emery (16 Feb, 2006) Charges dropped against Regina person with AIDS who was arrested & charged after his licence "expired".
    [​IMG][SIZE=-2]A plant from the legal garden[/SIZE]Tom Shapiro was upbeat Thursday night. The Crown Attorney had dropped the charges against him and promised the return of his growing equipment.

    "It's here now," an upbeat Shapiro told me. " A couple of guys from the Saskachewan Marijuana Party helped me pick them up from the police station and we're re-assembling things now."

    The Crown, however, opposed the return of the marijuana grown by Mr. Shapiro, who works as a sound man at Regina concert venues, because "he is legal now, but when that marijuana was grown, it was illegal," the stubborn Fed prosector held out.

    The judge said she would return March 1st to render a decision on whether Tom Shapiro should receive the return of his medicine.

    It's not all bad, Shapiro conceded, "The police returned my black pail with all my shake in it. Right now thats what I've got. So I guess I'll get one of those 3-bag bubblebags and try my hand at bubblehash."

    Tom wanted to extend his thanks to everyone across Canada and in the Regina community who helped his story get exposure.
  4. Alfa
    REGINA (SNN) -- A Regina medical marijuana user has his plants back.
    Tom Shapiro was at Regina police headquarters Thursday collecting the
    21 marijuana plants seized by officers last month following a delay in the renewal of his licence to grow pot.
    Shapiro arrived at the station armed with a court order for police to return the property to him.
    "I feel great having it back," he said. "It's a success story here all around. Hopefully it protects us in the future. For people who are legally entitled to grow it and possess it, (I hope) that it should never happen to them that the police should walk in and disrupt their life and their health."
    Returning seized drugs is a first for Regina police officers, who handed over two large bags of dried marijuana plants to Shapiro.
    In early February, police officers searched Shapiro's home, seizing marijuana plants and growing equipment. He was charged with production of marijuana under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, but later saw the charges dropped and his equipment returned.
    Shapiro said he doesn't have any animosity toward the police, and blames Health Canada for telling him he could grow marijuana while waiting for the renewal of his medical marijuana licence.
    He has held a licence to grow pot for the past five years to control the nausea he experiences as a side-effect of AIDS.
  5. Motorhead
    CN MB: Edu: Medical Marijuana Mix-Up
    by Tessa Vanderhart, Staff, (08 Mar 2006) Manitoban Manitoba
    Regina Man Has Legal Supply Of Illegal Drug Removed And Then Returned

    Last Thursday, Tom Shapiro walked into the Regina Police department, where he had recently been detained for possession of drugs. He walked out with two large bags of dried marijuana.

    Shapiro, who is infected with AIDS, has used marijuana for the last five years to alleviate the nausea that is a side-effect of his medication. His large, medically-sanctioned supply of marijuana was returned to him legally on March 2.

    Police seized his basement full of plants on January 31; his permit to grow and possess marijuana had expired in October. Shapiro said that he had applied to renew it before it expired, but it was late coming in the mail and he lost status as a legal user. Tipped off by his electricity bill, police entered his Regina home and seized 21 plants.

    "Health Canada said I'm not on the list, so I must be illegal," Shapiro said. He added that he believed the police did undue damage to his property in seizing the plants.

    Shapiro said that the police treated him as they would any illegal grow operation.

    He was taken to jail, fingerprinted, charged with growing marijuana contrary to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and set with a court date of March 7, but he was released when his renewed permit arrived on February 2. The charges against him were dropped, but Shapiro's drugs could not be returned to him until the confusion over his permit could be solved.

    Medical marijuana is subject to the Marijuana Medical Access Regulations Act, brought into effect by Health Canada on July 30, 2001. The regulations explain: authorization to possess usable marijuana, to grow it or have someone else grow it for you, and the legal provisions for purchasing marijuana.

    Two categories of people have access to medical marijuana. Those suffering from multiple sclerosis, a spinal cord injury or disease, severe pain or inability to eat as a result of cancer or HIV/AIDS, arthritis or epilepsy fall into category 1, while others who experience chronic pain can also apply for access to the drug, falling into category 2.

    In December 2000, Health Canada contracted Prairie Plant Systems to grow marijuana in Flin Flon, MB.

    Shapiro noted that, the website from which many medical marijuana users purchased seeds, was seized by police in Quebec.

    Christopher Williams, a spokesperson for Health Canada, said that there are three ways to access medical marijuana: it can be purchased from the government, patients can seek a licence to grow it themselves, or they can use a third party grower.

    He noted that the average approval time for a permit to possess medical marijuana is about 15 working days, though Health Canada advises patients to start the application process six weeks in advance of their licence's expiration date.

    Shapiro said that he was concerned about the quality of the marijuana returned to him by the police -- it may not be "smokable," which would mean he would have to start growing it again or purchase the Health Canada product, which he said is too expensive. He said that many medical marijuana users spend more than half of their disability compensation on the treatment.

    Currently, there are 1,186 users of medical marijuana in Canada, and Health Canada has authorized 859 licences to cultivate the plant for medical purposes.

    A pilot project aims to distribute marijuana in pharmacies across Canada -- in multiple provinces and both rural and urban areas -- but is still in the planning stages.

    Williams noted that Health Canada's "compassionate" approach to medical marijuana is unique internationally.

    "It's important to remember that it's not an approved drug, and nowhere in the world has it gone through the clinical trials, and nowhere in the world is it a prescribed drug," Williams said.

    Even so, Shapiro said that Health Canada, acting in the best interests of patients, should make medical marijuana more readily available. He has suggested improvements to the list system, including providing temporary licences and not removing patients from the "approved" list immediately after permits expire.

    "If it works for a person . . . they shouldn't bar access to it."

    He added that he thinks Canadians support better availability for medical marijuana.

    "I don't know why they would give someone something and then take it away," said Shapiro. "They're as bad as any dealer on the street."
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