by Hilary Beaumont
With a “justice 4 patients” sign hanging from his neck and his Jesus-like hair waving in the breeze, Chris Enns addressed police through a megaphone outside their Gottingen Street station: “You’re going into patients houses where they’re storing their medicine safely, away from children…and yet you come pounding through our front doors, bashing in our houses, turning them upside down.”
Friday afternoon, the owner of the recently raided Farm Assists Cannabis Resource Centre had walked with a flock of 40 or so medical marijuana advocates from the centre’s storefront further north on Gottingen. Two bus drivers honked in apparent support as the protesters walked slowly down the sidewalk, the smell of their joints hanging in the air.
On September 5, police raided the Gottingen Street centre along with a residence on East Chezzetcook Road and another location on Colford Drive, and arrested four people. Police said they seized marijuana and a large amount of money from the East Chezzetcook home, and hundreds of marijuana plants from the building on Colford Drive.
“Drug activity often involves violence that puts innocent citizens at risk and is detrimental to the overall safety of our communities,” Halifax police wrote in a release about the raids. They said the investigation stemmed from a number of complaints from the public.
On Friday, Enns told the doors of the police station: “You know what, there’s a whole lot more plants out there. It’s fall time, the sun’s shining, and those buds are finishing up, they’re getting tight. They’re turning into medicine that we’re going to be able to use to cure cancer, to stop epileptic seizures, to reduce inflammation.”
“Listen, the government has given this as a medicine for us to use. They’ve opened the door and there’s no turning back.”
A police van rolled by without stopping, and a protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask waved his sign at the driver. It read, “Stop using ‘our’ laws to punish us.”
When he finished his speech around 4:20pm, Enns lit up a fat joint and smoked it on the sidewalk, encouraging others to do the same. Several protesters obliged.
Few options for legal weed
Ralph Carl Phillips was one of them. The former resident of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children smoked a blunt under his Guy Fawkes mask. Marijuana, he recently discovered, helps him handle the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder triggered by his experiences at the Home.
Previously his doctor recommended synthetic drugs that mimic opiates to treat his mental health and back pain. Only one of the drugs worked for him, he says, but it worked so well that he couldn’t drive or function day to day. Marijuana has minimal side effects by comparison, and allows him to both treat his pain and enjoy life. Now he sleeps without nightmares.
“The pain is always going to be there. With opiodes, the pain is gone, but so is your life.”
Phillips obtained his marijuana licence in August, but when he called all 13 government dispensaries across Canada, they said they weren’t taking on any new patients. He said one of the government dispensaries suggested he find somewhere else to get it. He falls under the new regulations and isn’t allowed to grow his own plants. He says the government has left him with few options for obtaining marijuana legally. He doesn’t want to feel like a criminal for medicating himself.
When the Farm Assists centre opened in June, Enns said the store and vapour lounge would provide marijuana to licensed customers. However, Enns said he planned to sell his own product, which legally he is only allowed to grow for himself and one other person. Enns believed the store was operating in a legal grey area.
“Anyone who has a licence, I’ll step out on a limb and sell the excess from my production,” he said at the time.
The early September raids weren’t Enns’ first brush with police. In March 2013, police seized $50,000 in cash, 10 pounds of cannabis, 1,000 capsules of hash oil, and an unknown amount of psilocybin mushrooms from the Farm Assists’ Porters Lake location. Enns and his partner, Sherri Reeve, were charged with trafficking as a result of the raid.
Protesters want safe access to marijuana
Terry Cousineau attended the smoke-in at the centre’s vapour lounge prior to the protest. He thought it was “idiotic” of police to raid the cannabis centre, and says their “stone age thinking” reduces his ability to safely buy marijuana.
“I can come here and buy it, rather than the corner two blocks up where the guy’s got a gun and [is] selling other drugs.”
Cousineau, who has a licence, says marijuana “works 10 times better than the opiates for pain and all that.” He’s been using weed for his pain since 2009. It allows him to get out and about, and even go curling.
Lately federal regulations around medical pot use have been hazy. Earlier in the year the government tried to stop licensed patients from growing their pot at home, but a March court ruling trumped the new rules.
A man who only wanted to be identified as Billy carried a sign that said, “Waiting since April for meds due to government regulations, where do I go now?”
“They regulate the weed to all these big growers and stuff, but they don’t even have it,” he said. “They’ll email you to say they have some stuff and you’ll call up to order it and the phone will be busy, for like two or three hours. Then they’ll answer the phone and say there’s none left.”
Billy uses marijuana to treat pain in his hand. He lost two fingers three years ago in an on-the-job accident involving a table saw.
He says it’s harder these days to access legal medical weed than it used to be. He’s scared to grow it at home because police raided his house and took his plants. The government must want him to get his drugs from dealers on the street, Billy says.
“It’s all gonna dry up soon,” he says of accessible medical marijuana. “Everyone’s helping each other out right now.”
As the rally turned back in a slow procession along Gottingen, a third bus driver pumped the horn vigorously. At the Farm Assists centre the protesters retired to the vapour lounge for a barbecue. Police were absent for the entirety of the event.