Court Case Provides Opportunity For Debate About Medical Marijuana Dispensaries
Langley Mayor Peter Fassbender, three councillors, the city administrator and the top local cop have been subpoenaed to testify at the criminal trial of a medical marijuana retailer.
Lawyer Kirk Tousaw wants to grill the civic and police leaders about why they raided a pot dispensary though its owner acted above board, held a public meeting and discussed the medical need with them before opening.
He obtained subpoenas for the community police office coordinator Val Van Den Broek, city administrator Gerald Minchuk, RCMP Supt. Derek Cooke along with the mayor and councillors Teri James, Gayle Martin and Rudy Storteboom.
They are being called by 59-year-old Randy Caine, charged in October with trafficking and scheduled for trial June 10.
“This is something that has spanned three years since I first went to the police to get a criminal records check,” Caine said.
“From that initial contact to the raid was almost three years. I was extremely transparent and was always seeking the guidance and support of the community and elected officials. I had a two-hour meeting with the superintendent a year before the raid. He was fully aware of what I was doing.”
Caine fought a 10-year battle that ended in a landmark 2003 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that upheld the legality of the criminal marijuana prohibition.
This case raises similar national concerns and could be a bellwether prosecution involving the government’s discredited medical cannabis program.
Health Canada has proposed an entirely new scheme for supplying medical marijuana that is supposed to be in place by next year.
But the latest regime doesn’t include dispensaries and there is much confusion about what will happen and their status.
Cities across the country have found themselves facing the same conundrum as Langley — in the absence of a working medical program, illegal dispensaries are proliferating and no one with compassion likes shutting them down.
Caine emphasized his dispensary was not opened to challenge the law.
“I wasn’t out to be an activist,” he said.
“All of these elected officials were aware of what I was doing. It’s not like the police burst in the door and found marijuana. I had a break-and-enter three months before the raid and the police were absolutely wonderful. Everything I did led me to believe I had an umbrella support from the leaders of my community as I moved into this grey area. Now they’re calling me a criminal. This isn’t about trying to help more sick people, this is about me feeling betrayed and misled.”
On July 19, Mounties raided Caine’s Langley Medical Marijuana dispensary on Fraser Highway seizing more than eight pounds of pot and cannabis products.
In a press release, RCMP Superintendent Cooke explained: “These sorts of dispensaries are illegal and, despite what some may profess, have not been supported by the courts.”
That is only partly true — they are illegal but the courts have been sympathetic to medical marijuana patients seeking relief from a spectrum of ailments running the range from cancer treatment to glaucoma.
More than a decade ago the Supreme Court of Canada forced the federal government to create exemptions to the criminal code prohibition so those patients could have access to cannabis.
The medical program Ottawa created, however, was so flawed and the pot supplied so scorned, the dispensaries are a response to overwhelming demand.
There are nearly a score openly operating in Vancouver and the city’s Compassion Club has been selling cannabis products since 1997.
Still, Langley refused to give Caine a business permit.
Fassbender, who is also the provincial Liberal candidate for Surrey Fleetwood, and council insisted marijuana was a matter of federal jurisdiction.
The Union of B.C. Municipalities and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities have asked the federal government to fix this bizarre situation.
With the subpoenas and the argument he hopes to advance, Caine hopes to give the courts a chance to contribute to that discussion.