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Pot 'Club' Had Police OK, Court Told


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Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Author: Richard Watts, Times Colonist 
Published: Thursday, May 27, 2004
Copyright: 2004 Times Colonist
Contact: [email protected]

For years Ted Smith has sold medical marijuana to sick people with the full knowledge -- and even advice -- of Victoria police, provincial court heard Wednesday. "The police department had been aware of our operation for years," Smith testified.

"We've had police officers actually refer people to our club." Smith, 34, and Colby Budda, 30, are on trial for possession for the purpose of trafficking. The charges stem from a Jan. 3, 2002, police search of a downtown storefront operation, then known as Ted's Books, on Johnson Street. 

It was where Smith operated what he testified is commonly known as a "compassion club," selling marijuana to people with chronic illnesses.

Testifying in his own defence, Smith told provincial court Judge Loretta Chaperon he began in 1995 to personally distribute marijuana for use as medicine to people suffering from illnesses such as AIDS and cancer.

Smith said he sees distribution of the controlled substance to sick people as a civic duty. "I grew up with the idea that we have, as a society and as individuals, a requirement to protect the most vulnerable people in our society."

He has always been a vocal and public advocate for medical marijuana, speaking at City Hall, holding press conferences.

But in 2001, Smith said a police officer told him that police were aware of his operation and advised him to operate it more openly, from a storefront. The store opened on March 20, 2001.

Smith testified that for people to buy marijuana from the club they must show photo ID and some proof of chronic illness. The club has a membership list of more than 800 people.

Smith said the marijuana is always sold according to what it costs the club. The club has barely covered its costs and has been a money-losing operation recently.

Smith said police left the operation alone except for a few occasions, like one in September 2001 when officers told him to burn more incense to hide the smell.

But on Jan. 3, 2002, a beat patrol officer entered the store and spied someone rolling a marijuana cigarette.

Const. Ryan O'Neil testified he had been working for six months as a beat officer and 

hadn't heard of the club's existence. But on the day of the search, a man approached him and told him what was going on in the store. O'Neil said the man was angry and wanted to come along and watch police take it down.

When O'Neil entered the store, one of the people inside was rolling the cigarette.

O'Neil said he asked Smith if he would consent to a search and Smith agreed. Items found included 646 grams of marijuana and about a kilogram of cookies which laboratory analysis revealed contained marijuana.

O'Neil said Smith was entirely co-operative and even helped show him around.

The trial continues at a later date.

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