“The police said that an undercover cop bought marijuana at Farm Assists several times—with and without a licence. We say, ‘bullshit.’”
That’s Sherri Reeve, explaining that Friday’s bust of the Farm Assists shop on Gottingen Street, and of her home and grow-op in East Chezzetcook, were a miscarriage of justice. Reeve and her fiance, Chris Enns, were arrested, along with two other men.
Reeve, who prefers to be called Jes, invited me out to her house for an interview, and so I drove out to East Chezzetcook Sunday afternoon. East Chezzetcook is a seaside community 35 kilometres east of downtown Halifax. It’s a pretty place, with modest homes along East Chezzetcook Road, which winds along Chezzetcook Inlet and provides views out onto the ocean. Reeve and Enns live in a one-storey bungalow a stone’s throw from the Saint Genevieve Catholic church. There are several vehicles in the driveway, a couple of dogs lounging around, a vegetable garden off the back deck.
I’m invited in. Seven people are sitting around the dining room table, passing a fat joint between them. It comes around my way, but I pass—I’m here for work, to find out what Reeve and Enns are all about.
Reeve and Enns are directors of the Halifax Compassion Club (HCC). The initial purpose of the club, says Reeve, was to provide safe access to medical marijuana, so it established the Farm Assists dispensary, as a business arm of the non-profit HCC.
In addition Enns owns The Grow-Op Shop, a for-profit business in Porters Lake that sells growing equipment.
Up until 2012, HCC and The Grow-Op Shop both rented space in the same building on Highway 7, with the Grow-Op Shop on the first floor and HCC’s “vapour lounge”—where people with medical marijuana licences came to smoke—on the second floor.
In March of 2012, police busted the vapour lounge, but also raided the business below.
The 2012 raid on HCC left the club “financially crippled,” says Reeve, so Enns bought the Farm Assists business from the non-profit, and established the for-profit Farm Assists store as his own business.
“Chris bought all the logos, the branding, the business,” explains Reeve, “to cover our debt with suppliers and other growers, and so he could continue the dispensary, which I had no intention of continuing—I was terrified to touch it.”
Without running the dispensary, the mission of the HCC has changed, she says. Now the organization is solely about education, and spreading the word about the benefits of medical marijuana. The question she most deals with now, says Reeve, is: “I have a medical cannabis licence, now what do I do?” Reeve advises people how to safely use marijuana, how to keep a low-profile so their houses aren’t robbed or raided, and how to connect with growers.
Meanwhile, after the 2012 bust Enns decided to find another location for Farm Assists. Vapour lounges operate across Canada without facing arrest, and so it was reasonable for Enns to think he could operate legally. He found a space on Gottingen Street, and re-opened the business this spring. The building has two retail outlets on the ground floor—Farm Assists and the JJ Mart—and apartments on the second floor.
“The JJ Mart had a problem with the smell at first, so Chris bought a $600 air purifier for the store, and another for Farm Assists,” says Reeve.
The Gottingen Street location has four parts. There’s a bong shop in the front, which is open to any adult customer. Behind the bong shop is the vapour lounge, where people with a medical marijuana licence can come to smoke. Behind the vapour lounge is the dispensary, which is where people with a medical marijuana licence can pick up product grown for them. Lastly, there is a doctor’s office, but that has remained empty since the provincial government changed the rules on medical marijuana, prohibiting payments to doctors.
“Chris has a policy of never serving anyone without a licence,” says Reeve. “The police said that an undercover cop bought marijuana there several times—with and without a licence. We say, ‘bullshit.’ I know Chris’ policy, and he doesn’t tend to lie about things like that. I’ve seen him out in the bong shop turning people away, even before they get into the vapour lounge because they don’t have the right documentation. Even when he knows people, he makes them pull [the licence] out every time.”
The police release about Friday’s arrest is typically to the point, saying that “officers seized a quantity of marijuana and a large quantity of cash” at Reeve’s and Enns’ house.
“It wasn’t my money,” says Reeve. “It was Chris’ money. It was from my purse. I had approximately $1,000 dollars. It was in a band with Chris’ bank card— it was a deposit for Chris.”
“It seems that [the police’s] intent was to humiliate me,” she says. “They took money and electronics, but they left all the cannabis, except for the capsules.
“I’m glad, actually, because I’m totally bed-ridden without cannabis. I eat copious amounts of it every day. There’s still weed oil all over this house.”
Reeve shows me jars full of buds, a plastic bag full of what is indistinguishable from buds to my pot-ignorant eyes, but it’s what Reeve calls “pet food.”
Reeve adds the detail that she and Reeve were actually arrested at 11:30am, not noon, and that they were taken to the lockup in the RCMP station in Burnside, where they spent the rest of the day Friday and well into the day on Saturday. They were in separate holding cells, but could hear each other.
“We were yelling back and forth, ‘I love you!’, ‘I love you, too!’” It was very cold, she says, and suggests lockup is purposefully kept uncomfortably cold as a way to punish people who have not been convicted of any crime. I’ve heard the same complaint many times before, I tell her.
Reeve says that Enns was kept in lockup more than 24 hours, by which time his arrest is supposed to be brought to the attention of a Justice of the Peace. Reeve says this violation of law on the cops’ part was used as a bargaining chip by lawyer Laura McCarthy to get Reeve released. Reeve has been charged with five counts: two counts of possession for the purposes of trafficking, two counts of trafficking, and one count of living off the proceeds of a crime.
Enns has been moved to the Burnside jail, and will face a judge Monday morning. Reeve says Enns has been charged, but she doesn’t know what the charges are.
Asked how she became involved in the medical marijuana movement, Reeve says that she started smoking pot as a teenager growing up in Ontario. “Now, in retrospect, I was self-medicating. I was abused as a kid”—she’s quick to tell me her abuser was not a family member—”I had traumatic teenage years. Pot was for sure the substance that saved me. I’d go smoke a joint in the park, and I would just not want to kill myself anymore.” She laughs nervously. “And really maybe find the ability to like myself a little bit.
“I never denied any of my pot use,” she says.
Reeve met Enns at King’s College. As Reeve describes Enns, he was a sincere young man who had a stint as a Christian Youth Minister but “when he got to King’s and tried pot, everything changed. He had a basketball scholarship—King’s basketball was his introduction to pot.
“When the medical marijuana program came along, it was the same time that Chris and I were caring for a quadriplegic—Chris mainly—and we started learning about the benefits of eating cannabis. And Chris is a genius. He discovered the [medical marijuana] program, and he discovered Rick Simpson.”
Rick Simpson, who lives in Athol, Nova Scotia, is one of the most renowned figures in the medical marijuana community, producing well-received videos and books about the issue. After the Maccan Legion Hall was raided in 2012, Simpson won Freedom Fighter of the Year Award, awarded by High Times magazine at the annual Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam. Simpson claims that regular consumption of hemp oil will cure 70 percent of people who have cancer.
“And then we got me a licence,” continues Reeve, “because I have rheumatoid arthritis and PTSD and, you know, other conditions, and Rick was so inspiring, and the fact that I went from bedridden to totally mobile…it seemed like a miracle.
“I didn’t believe Chris when he was talking about cannabis and cancer—I was like, ‘potheads will say anything!’ And it’s true, I’ll make up bullshit too if it’ll help me get my weed. But, Chris’ research, he showed me study after study, and that in combination with Rick’s popularity, and meeting people who were curing themselves of cancer, that’s how we came to develop the Halifax Compassionate Club.”
Asked if it’s fair to characterize her and Enns as “true believers” in medical marijuana, Reeve says they both are Buddhists who believe in Dana, the importance of charity. “I believe in medical marijuana, but I don’t want to provoke the cops,” she says. “But Chris might want to provoke the cops in order to change the laws, but in the name of medical marijuana.”
Other interactions with police
Soon after the couple moved to East Chezzetcook, their home was one of several along the rural road that was robbed, and so the police were aware that there was a medical marijuana grow-op in the neighbourhood.
A couple of years later a neighbour, Francesca Rogier, had temporarily won the battle of custody for her dog, Brindi. HRM Animal Control would later take Brindi back, and the animal remains the subject of a years-long court battle, but at the time it looked like Rogier had prevailed, and so there was a celebration for the return of Brindi. Reeve and a couple of friends decided to walk to the party, and as she was heading out the door Reeve decided to bring a potted tomato plant from her garden as a present.
Coincidently, just a few days before, says Reeve, Toronto police had mistakenly arrested a backyard gardener for growing marijuana, but the plants were actually tomato plants. I’ve tried to find the incident Reeve refers to, but without success; there are, however, several similar incidents found on the web, including this one.
Anyway, as Reeve tells the story, she got only a few metres down the road with her tomato plant gift when a passing police patrol car stopped her. “He [the RCMP officer] said, ‘let me see the plant,’ and I guess I was feeling saucy, so I was like, ‘oh no, I know about you fucking tomato plant fucking stealers’—I was trying to joke with him, right?, ‘yo, this is a tomato plant.’”
But the cop didn’t like the joke, and arrested her, handcuffing her and putting her in the back seat of his cruiser. Reeve says that a police supervisor came to the scene and made the officer apologize to her.
“I said, ‘I totally understand, because you make it totally hard for me not to profile you guys. You keep arresting people for victimless crimes. You keep harassing people for fucking bullshit. Profiling is reciprocal, bud.’”
When the 2012 Porter Lakes bust occurred, Reeve was in Ontario but came back to Nova Scotia to deal with the arrest warrant that named her.
She says she called police in June of 2012 in order to be charged with arrest, and police showed up to serve her the papers, only to keep asking questions, which she refused to answer without a lawyer present.
The police officer “said, ‘OK that’s it,’ and they started barrelling at me. I was totally”—she raises her hands to illustrate—“‘yo, man, I’ll go freely, please don’t hurt me!’ and they totally, Jamie Payne beat the shit out of me. He used me like a battering ram, up against against his van. It was horrible.”
Reeve has filed a lawsuit against HRM and Halifax Regional Police constables Jamie Payne and Jason Shannon related to the incident. Her allegations have not been proven in court.
Subsequently, says Reeve, all charges against her related to the 2012 bust were dropped. She has never been convicted of a marijuana-related charge, she says.