A Queensborough resident is worried he could be arrested if police ever caught him bringing home medical marijuana purchased at a dispensary in Vancouver.
Paul Slusher is a business owner and work-at-home father of a 15-month-old daughter – he is also a medical marijuana user.
He has a doctor’s note for medical pot, which is part of his post-traumatic stress disorder treatment along with meditation, yoga and a healthy lifestyle, and purchases it legally at a medical marijuana dispensary in Vancouver.
Slusher, originally from Washington, has lived in New Westminster since 2008 and never had any problems using or transporting his medical marijuana. In fact, it never occurred to him that there would be cause for a problem – until recently.
Slusher recently found out someone he knows, who is also a fellow New Westminster resident and medical marijuana user, was stopped and subsequently arrested by police for possession.
“I’m a husband. I work at home. I take care of my child every single day because I run the companies from (home), so if anything ever happened to me it would disrupt everything,” Slusher told the Record.
While Slusher doesn’t have a Health Canada medical marijuana licence, he does have an iMediKate card, which allows him to buy from a select crop of marijuana dispensaries in Vancouver. With this in mind he contacted the New Westminster Police Department to find out what would happen if he were found in possession of marijuana.
“They didn’t have any kind of policy. I asked him specifically, ‘In my case, I’m a New Westminster resident, … and I’m very openly going to tell you I go into the city to buy marijuana and bring it home. What are you going to do if I get pulled over?’” Slusher said.
The police department told Slusher he would be arrested.
“I don’t really care if they take my weed away if they pull me over,” he said. “If they want to pretend that it’s illegal and they’re able to that, let’s do that, but don’t arrest me.”
Slusher believes the police department should have a specific policy or directive for its members if ever they encounter such a situation, one that wouldn’t end with the medical marijuana user in prison.
“Arresting me would screw my life up and that’s a whole other type of situation, one that I’m almost willing to forego using the marijuana as a medicine knowing that that risk is there,” he added.
The Recordcontacted the New Westminster Police Department and was told that if, during a routine traffic stop, an officer believes there is enough evidence to carry out a search of the individual’s vehicle and discovers marijuana, the driver could be arrested.
“Usually with marijuana the evidence at the onset is going to be the smell of fresh marijuana or the smell of burning marijuana,” said Sgt. Chad Johnston, spokesperson for the department. “
If the individual is legally allowed to possess marijuana for medicinal purposes, they should present the proper documentation to the officer so they can confirm the person is, in fact, a licensed medical marijuana user and that he or she isn’t carrying more than they are allowed to according to their licence, Johnston explained.
If everything checks out, the individual would be released, he added.
“As with anything, we don’t go just searching people’s vehicles without evidence. You have to be able to articulate that and have that evidence,” Johnston said.
Plus, it’s not as if the New Westminster Police Department has a list of medical marijuana users living in the city, and the department is not actively searching for drivers who might be carrying medical marijuana, Johnston said.
“It’s something that that member would have to deal with at the time they conduct the traffic stop or come across that person,” he added.
According to Johnston, an arrest would be the result of any initial evidence the officer observes. If the person being arrested is able to prove he or she is legally allowed to possess marijuana, he or she would be released.
“When we come across these things, it’s an unknown for us,” Johnston said. “We have to move forward if there’s evidence to support an investigation and an arrest. ... If it comes to it, after the fact, we would proceed by letting that person go.”