David Chun was spending the afternoon of Jan. 17 with his two sons at his Etobicoke, Ontario home when he suffered a severe brain seizure at 3 p.m., regaining consciousness over six hours later, Chun found himself shackled to a gurney in police custody.
Chun was diagnosed with a brain tumour four years ago, since then he’s tried a variety of prescription medication to treat his illness, which causes symptoms like vertigo, trembling, severe mood swings, anxiety and tinnitus, but was left nauseous from the drugs.
After not touching cannabis for 20 years, he called up a friend who provided him with marijuana and found the plant alleviated 80 per cent of his symptoms.
“I stopped shaking, I could relax and it also treated the anxiety in a very effective way,” said Chun.
Under the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations, Chun is legally entitled to possess and grow up to 49 cannabis plants to treat his illness, but when his seizure brought authorities to his aid it also brought their attention to his medicine.
“I had a seizure, a 20 minute seizure, about as severe a seizure that you could ever get, without dying,” Chun said.
When the paramedics arrived, they were unable to handle Chun’s spasms and called for support.
“It was causing my whole body to tense up and I was lifting people off the ground. It took five firefighters and my two sons just to hold me down,” said Chun. ““My adrenals must have been firing, with one arm I had the ability to lift two grown men off the ground, so I must have just been like a hulk.”
“They gave me a double tranq just to put me out.”
While he was being held down and tranquilized, police searched his home after a paramedic reported seeing marijuana inside.
Police found 300 grams from dried cannabis and six juvenile plans Chun was developing to better treat his symptoms, confiscating it even after Chun’s sons showed them a copy of his license.
“They said they didn’t care,” Chun recalled. “They said we were growing to sell.”
As he was taken away to the hospital, Chun’s two sons were arrested and, without anyone to watch over them, his 15 dogs were sent to the shelter. It wasn’t until he regained consciousness, hours later with no memory of what happened, that Chun learned he was also under arrest. All three were charged with the production of marijuana for the purposes of trafficking in what police called “an illegal marijuana grow-op.”
For the next two days, Chun was treated for his seizure, while under guard from two police officers. Still groggy from the double dose of tranquilizer used to knock him out, Chun said it felt like he woke up in a dream, his arms and legs chained to the bed in the hospital.
“I was shackled and paraded across the hospital for two days like a serial killer,” said Chun. “At one point, they took me back to the station and the hospital had to call them and beg them to bring me back and tell them they can’t take me because I’m in the middle of treatment.”
When he was finally discharged, Chun spent the next night in jail.
“I had to spend the night in jail with real criminals,” Chun said, who called the experience “terrifying” and is only now, weeks later, able to think clearly after the seizure.
Able to retrieve his pets from the shelter after paying close to $3,000, Chun is forbidden from returning to his home due to bail conditions and is forced to share his son’s two bedroom apartment with all 15 dogs.
Chun said police mixed all of the dried cannabis in his home together and confiscated half of it before retuning his medicine.
“They left me with 150 grams of a whole bunch of strains all mixed into a salad,” Chun said. “Can you imagine doing that with somebody’s pills?”
Chun, who has 12 rental properties across Toronto, said authorities also took roughly $6,000 in cash from around his home. Money that he said is unrelated to his medicine.
“I have cash, I don’t need to sell weed, I’ve never wanted to sell weed, I’m not trying to sell weed — I got sick with a brain tumour,” said Chun. “If I have millions of dollars and I own property and I collect rent, what interest would I have breaking the law to sell weed?”
While he waits to visit court on Mar. 2, Chun said he’s investigating hiring a lawyer for a human rights complaint after what he’s gone through.
“It’s destabilized my sense of any security in this country or in my life,” said Chun. “If I was treated this way in a climate that’s just about to legalize, that says we’re not about to legalize — we’re about to go heavier into prohibition.”
Hoping that going public with his story will help other patients, Chun wants the people to know that authorities are doing everything they can to “destabilize the medical community.”
“A man with a brain tumour, who’s been licensed by Health Canada to use medical marijuana to treat his brain tumour, is arrested for treating his brain tumour with the medicine he’s been licensed by the government, lawfully, to use,” said Chun “How do you think, in light of what’s happened to me, every other patient might be feeling?”