A medical marijuana patient has filed a human rights complaint against the City of Toronto demanding $1 million because the dispensaries closest to him were shut down during the Project Claudia raids.
Raymond Hathaway, a paralegal who uses a cannabis extract called Rick Simpson oil, aka Phoenix Tears, to treat an inoperable tumour in his spine, told VICE that dispensaries in Scarborough, where he lives, were targeted by Project Claudia. As a result, he said he can't access the medicine he needs to treat pain and swelling caused by the tumour. He's now suing the city for infringing on his rights.
"I consider this harassment and direct attack on my security of person specifically targeting medical cannabis patient access," Lee wrote in one of two emails addressed to the city and the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Lee shared the emails with VICE.
Having to hunt for new dispensaries to source the oil has "left me with less money resulting in less medication and more pain," he said.
"As a person with a diagnosed inoperable tumor I am now wasting an inordinate amount of my limited time sourcing and trying to find medication I was using a very specific topical treatment and a very effective oral treatment that is now gone."
Following the Project Claudia raids, Toronto police said legitimate medical patients would still be able to access cannabis through the federal government's Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR). But Health Canada-approved licensed producers do not carry Rick Simpson oil.
In February, the MMPR program was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge, who said patients should be able to grow their own weed. The government has been given six months to revise the legislation. Additionally, the Supreme Court last year ruled patients have the right to consume cannabis in any form, including edibles.
"The city is enforcing bylaws, and police the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, based on an unconstitutional program that continues to violate access rules even to this day by not offering all medical marijuana products," Hathaway wrote in his email.
He demanded city officials prove his medication was harmful, and show there are THC "victims" and that labels on products in dispensaries are inaccurate.
Hathaway told VICE he's not heard back from the city (respondents have 35 days to file a response to a human rights complaint). He's encouraged other patients to file similar complaints. A spokesperson for the city told VICE the municipal licensing and standards department, which laid zoning violation charges against dispensaries, is not aware of the complaint.
Despite the crackdown, some dispensaries in Toronto have remained open.
The Green Room Society, which has at least three locations in Toronto, said on Facebook two of them were still open. But a staffer there told VICE 14 employees have quit over fears of being charged with trafficking.
"They are just normal, hard working people and the raids were a bit of scare for them," the staffer said. VICE spoke with a handful of other dispensaries who are still serving patients, but did not want to speak on the record for fear of being raided.
Pot activist Jodie Emery meanwhile has expanded her Vancouver-based Cannabis Culture dispensaries to Toronto, having just opened up two completely recreational pot shops on Queen Street.
On Monday night, the Queen West location had a steady stream of customers coming through; all they needed was ID showing they were at least 19 years old and cash to purchase weed.
"Am I nervous? Yes. But I'm not going to stop fighting for a cause I believe in," said manager Tyler McDonald, who described the city's crackdown as "marijuana hate."
He said there were around 300 customers who came by Monday alone.
"It's been non-stop all day."
Toronto Mayor John Tory has said he had nothing to do with the raids and arrests.
"When it comes to… alleged drug trafficking and the absolutely unregulated location of these stores popping up all over the place, going from like 30 to 100 in the space of about a month, I think common sense told you that was not a tenable situation," he told reporters Monday.
The Liberal government is expected to roll out marijuana legalization next year.
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