here's a question for rob ford, he of the roach in his back pocket, and everyone else vying for municipal office: if Toronto Public Health can inspect restaurants and busted grow ops, why can't it oversee compassion clubs?
Three weeks ago, there was yet another police raid on Cannabis as Legal Medicine (CALM). Why should the thousands of T.O. residents who rely on medicinal pot have to endure this insecurity?
After 15 years of community service, compassion clubs are growing in number, but coexistence with police can't be relied upon. Time to ask Toronto Public Health to be the buffer between med green clinics and law enforcers.
After all, clubs operate in a smoky area of case law. Most follow an unwritten code of conduct to ensure that the people they sell meds to are legitimately ill. Keeping out pothead posers is key to their survival, because undercover cops are kept out, too.
Unlike Health Canada's arduous admittance process for its ineffective medical marijuana program, our locally operated dispensaries have streamlined access.
So instead of police raids, Toronto Public Health could develop and enforce compassion club standards, protecting operators and clientele. It's inspectors we need, not police. Why not a compassion club protection bylaw?
Well, not so fast, says Public Health media spokesperson Susan Sperling. She explains that the department's mandate when it comes to drugs doesn't cover a medical context.
"Our work on drugs is [around] substance abuse prevention and harm reduction." Medical pot, she says, "is treatment."
While I appreciate her recognition of marijuana as a remedy, I can't help finding the department's current perspective a little unimaginative.
Kirk Tousaw, a lawyer with Vancouver's Beyond Prohibition Foundation, thinks there could be a legal way for Toronto to regulate the clubs.
"It's an interesting scenario," he says. "The city could have a partnership with a compassion club, then take it to the feds seeking a Section 56 Exemption [from the Controlled Drugs And Substances Act]."
It would be great, he says, to see Toronto advocating for licensing and working in harmony with members and clubs. "This is a worthwhile project for Toronto to pursue. It makes the most sense, because people want their compassion clubs."
A bylaw would set out responsibilities that dispensaries must abide by, and by issuing a compassion club permit the city could offer a form of sanctuary until federal laws catch up with case law. The municipality could even follow the suggestion of Denver councillor Doug Linkhart and levy a 6 per cent sales tax on med pot sales to raise revenue.
But Councillor Gord Perks, who sits on the Board of Health, is hesitant. "Our concern is other kinds of drug use and reducing the harm. Compassion clubs are an important service, but it's not the same as someone struggling with addiction."
Would he advocate a larger mandate for the department? Well, he'd have to think about it.
"Not to say there shouldn't be a role, but it has be a clear one. I agree with compassion clubs."
Kyle Rae, though, who is not seeking re-?election, is more forthright.
"The service provided is essential," he says. "Public Health should be involved in the licensing of compassion clubs. Why not? It might stop the police from thinking they should be regulating them."3