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By admin | July 6, 2010

The Montreal Gazette

We’re not like others: Compassion Club chief

They’re giving us bad name, he says

By MEGAN MARTIN, The Gazette June 23, 2010

Irresponsible business practices are giving medical marijuana a bad reputation, says Montreal Compassion Club leader Marc-Boris St-Maurice.

St-Maurice is slated to appear in court today with seven of his employees, all facing charges stemming from the police raids of four compassion clubs in Montreal on June 3. The clubs, which have all since been shut down, claimed to sell marijuana to those in need for medical purposes, mostly pain control.

“It took us 10 years to build up our credibility and now we’re being grouped in with centres like Culture 420 in Lachine, who we have no connection to,” said St-Maurice, who spoke with media yesterday. “They’re claiming they have a legal contract to sell marijuana, which is frankly dishonest and both detrimental and dangerous for the people that we serve.”

The use and cultivation of marijuana for certain medical conditions has been legal under Canadian law since 2001. However, it is illegal to sell the substance, and the only legitimate way to obtain it is through Health Canada.

“We know that it’s not legal to sell it,” St-Maurice said. “But there is a genuine need for it, and we have been tolerated by authorities for 10 years now because we operate in a careful and professional manner.”

Last month, the city of Montreal said it received several complaints about the Culture 420 club in Lachine after multiple witnesses said they saw young, healthy looking people visiting the store on a regular basis.

“It’s called wilful blindness,” St-Maurice said. “It’s one thing to take sworn declarations about people’s conditions and it’s quite another to close one’s eyes to false representation.”

Roughly five kilograms of marijuana were seized from the Lachine club during the subsequent raid and 11 people from the location were arrested.

“The raids have had a series of direct and indirect effects on the community,” St-Maurice said. “Most importantly, sick people who use this service have no access to medicine right now and they have to turn to the black market or other means to get their medicine.”

That stress can put a strain on their medical conditions, he said, adding that the standard of the marijuana is lower on the black market and people have no way of knowing what substances are mixed into it.

“We serve people with Health Canada documentation and those with doctor’s diagnosis and recommendation letters,” St-Maurice said. “We’re not claiming to be perfect but we’re definitely doing everything we can to operate professionally. I question if that is the case at other places.”

St-Maurice and his seven employees are facing charges of drug trafficking, possession with intent to traffic and conspiracy to traffic. All Montreal compassion clubs have been shut down indefinitely as city police have decreed a “zero-tolerance” for the sale of marijuana.

“We are respectful of the legal process, but it is very long and people are suffering in the meantime,” St-Maurice said. “We want our reputation to remain intact and we want the public to know we have no connection with Culture 420 and we do not condone their practices.”

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