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High Times Magazine December 2002
Highwitness News

Toronto Compassion Club Raided - Four Charged In Medical-Pot Bust

Toronto - Metro Toronto police raided the Toronto Compassion Centre August 13, battering down the door and entering with weapons drawn. Four people were arrested: club founder Warren Hitzig, club supervisor Zack Naftolin, and volunteer receptionists Andrea Horning and Markos Koutoukis.

They were charged with two counts of possession of marijuana and hashish, two counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking, possession of property from the proceeds of crime, trafficking in a controlled substance, and possession for the purpose of trafficking over a three-month period. It was the third time Hitzig had been arrested, but the first police raid on the club.

A throng of supporters greeted the four when they appeared in court the next day for bail hearings. "The amount of people who showed up was overwhelming," says Hitzig. "It was the best feeling in the world." As part of the condition of their C$8000 bail (US$5000), he and Naftolin are not allowed to be within 500 meters of the TCC or to speak to each other.

While many in the community are outraged by the police tactics, comparing them to the armed robbery of the club in December, Hitzig doesn't hold a grudge against the police. "The police were just doing their job. They were protecting themselves," he says. "When they do regular busts, they're going to assume there could be violence. After the first few minutes, eighty percent of the cops were friendly. They told us not to worry. It's still a great scare tactic. They went through the place like a tornado in a small town."

The one charge that is baffling the club's lawyer, Osgoode Hall law professor Alan Young, is possession of property from a crime. "I haven't seen that one before. Their object was to shut down the club, but we can resurrect three for every one they shut down. All the police are doing is disrupting a service to people who are ill."

Members were already making plans to reopen the following day.

Matt Mernagh

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