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Police recommend drug trafficking charges for B.C. compassion club members

The RCMP raid - the third in a decade - came late Friday afternoon, but two members of the North Island Compassion Club deny police allegations that the Courtenay-based marijuana dispensary is a front for illegal drug dealing.

Bill Myers and Ernie Yacub, the club's long-time manager, were arrested on the weekend and police have recommended they be charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking marijuana. Both deny the allegations, saying the club is strictly for users of medical marijuana.

"There is absolutely no illegal drug dealing going on, none, and I can verify that," said Mr. Myers, 56. "We dispense medical marijuana to people who really need it, and both Ernie and I spend enough time with everybody to know if they're coming in on a straight edge."

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RCMP executed a search warrant on the society's Sixth Street headquarters around 4 p.m. Friday, arresting Mr. Yacub, Mr. Myers and two other club members who were questioned and released without charges.

Police seized several pounds of dried marijuana, as well as unspecified quantities of cookies, hashish and cash.

"We recognize there are conflicting views on the medicinal value of marijuana but it remains illegal to sell in the manner in which they were conducting business," said Comox Valley RCMP Constable Tammy Douglas.

The investigation was triggered by complaints "from neighbours, from Crime Stoppers and from the city," Constable Douglas said, noting that RCMP have raided the club on two previous occasions in its 10-year history.

In 2006, the club's founder, Edith Noreen Evers, was charged when police seized and destroyed dozens of pot plants growing on her acreage in Black Creek, south of Campbell River.

Rather than plead guilty and accept a modest fine as punishment, Ms. Evers launched a lengthy legal battle and spent five months in custody before she was sentenced to time served and released last April.

Mr. Yacub, who has managed the club's affairs for seven years, said relations with the community and the police have been trouble-free since the arrest of Ms. Evers. The club only distributes marijuana to people with applicable conditions whose diagnosis has been confirmed by a doctor, he said.

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The North Island Compassion Club has retained Mill Bay lawyer Kirk Tousaw, who represented two members of the Vancouver Island Compassion Club after their 2004 arrest for marijuana trafficking.

In 2009, after dragging through the legal system for five years, the B.C. Supreme Court granted the accused in that case an unconditional discharge.

Mr. Tousaw predicted a similar result for Mr. Yacub and Mr. Myers.

"There's almost a decade of case law now, all standing for the proposition that bona fide medical marijuana producers and distributors ought to be granted full discharge," Mr. Tousaw said.

The North Island Compassion Club's storefront location has been closed until further notice, but Mr. Yacub said legal troubles or not, he and other members remain determined to serve the club's clients.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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