Jerry Pomehichuk and Brenda Wakefield are a couple from Brandon, Manitoba who recently launched a lawsuit that was filed against three RCMP officers, the force used by the police, Health Canada, and many others.
This lawsuit is in response to a raid that was mistakenly executed by RCMP officers. The raid resulted in the seizure of 206 marijuana plants and five kilograms of dried marijuana and the arrest of Jerry Pomehichuk. Pomehichuk was arrested and charged with drug possession offences. All charges were later dropped once it was learned that the couple had valid licenses for their production and possession of medical marijuana. As the couple was within their legal limit of possessing 292 plants, which was later confirmed by the courts.
Jerry and Brenda like many other Canadians, feel that the lax rules around medical marijuana are a breach of their rights. As owners and operators of a legal medical grow-up the two are appalled at how easy the police were able to destroy their business.
The couples major concern is with the police’s ability to notify and question the department on people’s legal ability to possess and produce medical cannabis. Health Canada provides law enforcement with a dedicated phone line that is accessible 24 hours a day, and seven days a week. This line allows police officers to call the department at any time for information regarding if a citizen has the legal authority to produce or possess medical marijuana.
The line was set up in the beginning stages of the medical marijuana program in Canada, sometime in the early 2000’s.
The RCMP has released a statement stating that the mistake in raiding the couple’s compound was due to a miscommunication with Health Canada. According to the suit, an officer had sent Health Canada the names and addresses of the couple, asking if they obtained the proper licenses. Health Canada did not immediately respond, in which the police acted on instinct and received a warrant and raided the space without actually receiving the full information.
Shortly after the raid, Health Canada informed the Brandon police that the couple did, in fact, have valid licenses to produce and possess medical marijuana.
The couple is suing for unlawful arrest, unlawful search and seizure, and the damage that was done to their property during the raid. The plants were completely destroyed before the police could return them.
There are many issues with this case, for one, the laws surrounding medical marijuana are still in the grey. According to the case, the only response the police received before the raid from Health Canada was that the couple had licenses but were told they were no “business” operators.
However, in Canada, those authorized to have Medical Marijuana do have the right to produce it themselves, as well as having the right to have another party produce it for them.
This is one of the many discrepancies that the couple is fighting against, as the police should not have had the right to a warrant and search and seize their property when they were told they had a license. Even if it was not confirmed that they had a business license, Canadians are provided the right to grow their product themselves.
The Brandon couple has a compelling argument, and will hopefully mold the landscape for Canadian medical cannabis.
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