Arrested for volunteering at a raided Nanaimo dispensary, a senior is now barred from accessing her medication.
Sixty-five-year-old retired education assistant Rose Miranda started using cannabis from Phoenix Pain Management Society to help with her arthritis. After discovering the benefits, she began volunteering at the Nanaimo dispensary to help others in pain.
Miranda is now facing potential drug trafficking charges, is not allowed to use cannabis for her arthritis, and is not allowed to visit or contact the dispensary she worked with after the RCMP raided several dispensaries in Nanaimo.
She says that she likes Justin Trudeau, but is feeling the frustration of how long legalization might take.
“I love baby Trudeau, but he says, ‘We’re going to fix this.’ When? Meanwhile I have clients who don’t have their medication” she said.
She comments that “I take care of people who are housebound, people in wheelchairs and people who are poor. They need their medication and right now they can’t access it.”
Even though Trudeau promised to legalize and regulate cannabis, there are still people like Miranda facing trial over cannabis, and so the court system is still spending its time and resources on crimes that will soon become non-crimes.
She started using cannabis over two years ago after having negative experiences with prescription medication she was given, which she says turned her brain to “mush.”
She then started volunteering at Phoenix and focused on helping senior citizens become educated about using cannabis for pain relief.
On Dec. 1, Miranda was at the dispensary during the RCMP raid, an experience she says was frightening.
“They came in like a SWAT team, guns out, ‘Hands up!’ screaming, yelling, terrifying everybody,” Miranda recalled.
The police then physically searched everyone in the building, including an elderly volunteer using a cane, and proceeded to detain them and take them to prison.
Miranda sat in a freezing cell for over 10 hours before being released, two days later she had to go to the hospital with chest pains.
The Nanaimo RCMP would not comment specifically on the dispenary raids, but they say the officers acted professionally the whole time.
“I believe most of the scenes were videotaped, so if there’s any evidence our officers were [heavy handed], that will certainly come out,” said Constable Gary O’Brien of the Nanaimo RCMP.
He also said that there was evidence of the dispensaries selling to minors but he couldn’t give details while they are under investigation.
The Nanaimo raids were a shock to many people in B.C., since, for the most part, the dispensaries had been left alone, but in the entire nation there has been a steady increase in possession of cannabis charges over the past decade.
Neil Boyd, a criminologist at SFU, found in 2013 that Vancouver police would rarely recommend charges for possession as a single offense, but it was the RCMP who are responsible for the increasing number of charges.
Boyd recommends that the government decriminalize possession for personal use, while it works on the specifics of legalization.
“It would send a message that we don’t want law enforcement to be particularly focused on possession. I think it’s a very small first step,” says Boyd. “We have tons of evidence that globally that decriminalizing possession has no impact on rates of use or harms.”
RCMP spokesperson Const. Annie Delisle, says the RCMP is still mandated to enforce current laws even though legalization is slowly being rolled out.
So in the meantime, Miranda is getting prepared to possibly face the first criminal charge in her life.
She has never even had a parking ticket, yet she might go to jail for defending seniors rights to medicate with cannabis.
“I feel very angry, but defiant, because I know I’m doing the right thing,” Miranda said. “My conscience is clear. I am not a criminal.”
We will be following Miranda’s story closely over the next few months.