|Medical Marijuana Buyers' Store Quietly Opens Doors|
Police are watching London's medical marijuana buyers' club, vowing to swoop in if laws are broken. The London Cannabis Compassion Centre has quietly opened the doors to its first commercial outlet. It is located at 199 Wellington St.
Although there is no sign on the storefront, police indicated they know it's there and said they'll move in at the right time.
"We enforce the laws of the land, however they are written, so I would like to suggest that, if laws are being broken, at the appropriate time the issue will be addressed," police Chief Julian Fantino said yesterday.
Mike Harichy, who manages the pot outlet, said generally the centre's 40 or so clients don't come in to pick up their marijuana.
"Most of our customers aren't well enough to come in. So I deliver to them," said Harichy, whose wife Lynn smokes marijuana to ease her multiple sclerosis symptoms.
No marijuana is kept on the premises, Lynn Harichy said, "because we are trying to help those people and if we get busted we won't be any help."
The centre only accepts cash and sells a quarter ounce of marijuana to clients for $65, about $10 cheaper than the street price, Mike Harichy said.
Asked about the club, Fantino was tight-lipped about enforcement plans. "I suppose one has to remember that the police on certain occasions have to work in mysterious ways to, in the end, address the issues -- and we will."
A centre information sheet outlines membership qualifications. It accepts:
* Clients with HIV, AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy, among other conditions. They must provide a doctor's letter of diagnosis.
* Those with ailments not on the centre's list may qualify if their doctor writes a letter of support.
* Both categories must sign a release so the centre can check with the client's doctor.
* Anyone over 65 can join without a doctor's letter.
London police Sgt. John O'Flaherty said if people are selling marijuana, they will be charged. Police do not differentiate between people who use and sell marijuana as a medicine and those who use and sell for profit and pleasure, he said.
"The narcotics control (laws) don't differentiate -- yet. If that's changed, we'll take a look at it," O'Flaherty said. "It's up to Parliament. We're just the enforcers of the law."
Lynn Harichy, a London mother, has said she smokes up to five joints a day to ease her symptoms. Last year, she was charged with possession of marijuana before she could light a joint on the steps of the London police station. Her case is expected to go to trial in November, Mike Harichy said.
Last February, a Toronto buyers' club announced it was opening seven Ontario locations, including one in London to be owned by Lynn Harichy and managed by her husband, Mike.
He said they had been running the centre from their home but were concerned about a police raid. They didn't want their children exposed to that experience, he said.
Lynn Harichy met with federal Health Minister Allan Rock in March and told him of plans to open the buyers' club. Rock said later he hoped to have "a solid response" for Harichy within months on whether changes would be made to existing drug laws.
-- with files from Roxanne Beaubien, Free Press Crime Reporter
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