Some lit up bongs, some blasted Bob Marley and others waved flags emblazoned with the marijuana leaf in a Sunday afternoon protest outside police headquarters to protest the shuttering of Cannabis as Living Medicine.
Officers raided the Queen St. E. clinic of CALM, an organization that sells marijuana to medicinal users, on March 31 and charged nine people with a variety of drug-related offenses.
On Sunday, some 300 people took to the street outside police headquarters to protest the raid and subsequent closure of the clinic, and to demand that Health Canada make it easier for those with medical needs to access the drug.
“A lot of people need help from cannabis, but it’s hard to get high-quality cannabis,” said Neev Tapiero, CALM’s owner, adding that the clinic’s users have rallied in the wake of the closure.
“Everyone’s in great spirits; the community is behind us.”
Police officers lined both the north and south sides of the building behind security fences and shut down part of the street, but no incidents were reported.
The crowd was a mix, with dreadlock-sporting marijuana legalization activists rubbing shoulders with sufferers of epilepsy and people with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, who say the drug helps their conditions.
Kevin Clarke, a homeless man who briefly ran for mayor of Toronto, appeared at the protest, shouting at police.
Tapiero says it’s an uphill battle to get Health Canada to change its policy around organizations like CALM, referencing recent statements by Prime Minister Stephen Harper implying he wants to keep a tight lid on marijuana.
“I understand that people defend the use of drugs, but that said, I think I’ve been very fortunate to live a drug-free life and I don’t meet many people who’ve lead a drug-free life who regret it,” the prime minister said in a YouTube interview on the subject last month. “So obviously this is something we want to encourage for our children, for everybody’s children.”
Ron Marzel, CALM’s lawyer, is hoping to file motion next week asking police to return some of the approximately 18,000 grams of marijuana and hash to users.
If the motion goes through, he says CALM could be back in business.
For now, however, the organization is operating without marijuana on the premises. Instead, it’s serving as a place for clients to co-ordinate for the court battle and organize a campaign of protest and pressure against Health Canada.
Tapiero is hoping a protest planned for May 1 at Queen’s Park will draw tens of thousands.
Police had no immediate estimate on the size of the crowd, but said that the protest was peaceful.
CALM has been in existence since 1996 and boasts 3,000 registered members. Some have a license to consume medicinal marijuana, while others simply have a doctor’s note explaining their condition.
April 11, 2010