TreatingYourself.com Founder Arrested Part 1

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Guelph Mercury
News, Friday, April 15, 2005, p. A1
Up in smoke; A sick Guelph man fears the future after police confiscate his crop of what he argues is legal marijuana, prescribed to ease his many ailments

DEIRDRE HEALEY
MERCURY STAFF

GUELPH - Bob LeDuc is terrified he has to face the next three months of his life without his medicinal marijuana.

It will mean days full of violent epileptic seizures, memory loss, irritable bowel syndrome and painful dry skin caused by cirrhosis, he said.

LeDuc, 55, is authorized by Health Canada to grow up to 39 marijuana plants to curb the symptoms of his many illnesses.

But the Guelph man lost his entire crop of marijuana Wednesday after police raided his friend's home and seized 31 plants LeDuc had growing there.

Four drug enforcement units, including Wellington OPP's tactical team, searched Marco Renda's rural home in Dundalk Wednesday afternoon as part of an ongoing investigation.

While Renda is authorized to grow up to 78 marijuana plants -- he has hepatitis C and suffers from chronic vomiting -- officers found 109 plants growing in his garage.

"They destroyed my plants," said LeDuc, who estimates it will take another three months before he can grow and harvest more plants.

"That's my medicine. What I am faced with if I don't get my medicine scares the **** out of me."

LeDuc blames Health Canada for the mishap because he said they put his Guelph residence on his exemption card as the place where his marijuana was being grown and not Renda's address.

"I have been growing my marijuana at his house since 2001 and every year it has been his address on my exemption card except for this year," LeDuc said. "I called Health Canada three times to change it, but they never did and I eventually gave up. I thought it must not be a big deal. Now this has happened."

Police raided Renda's home after receiving information from the Canada Border and Security Agency connecting Renda to packages of marijuana being mailed to addresses in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Renda said he wasn't surprised police were investigating him because some of his packages had gone missing recently.

"I was kind of anticipating it," said the 45-year-old after being released from custody yesterday on $10,000 bail.

He was charged with three counts of exportation of marijuana and three counts of trafficking marijuana.

Renda said the exporting charges relate to three bundles totalling 43 packages of marijuana. He said one of the bundles was bound for the United Kingdom and the rest were being sent to the United States.

"If someone presents medical evidence that marijuana helps them I will do what I can to help them," he told the Mercury.

"They're not going to stop me. I'm still moving forward."

Police also charged Renda with possession of a controlled substance in connection with viles of hash found in his home.

He was charged with production of marijuana in connection with exceeding the amount of marijuana he is authorized to grow.

Renda returns to court May 2 to set his next court date.

London OPP Det. Sgt. Patti Dobbin said the 31 plants seized have an estimated street value of $50,140.

Renda's wife, Sue, who was at the home when police conducted the search warrant, said officers were careful in counting the plants and left behind the more mature plants.

"I think they were very understanding," she said.

She told them the additional 31 plants belonged to LeDuc and said she even showed the officers a photocopy of his exemption cards -- the card from 2003-04 that has Renda's address and the card from 2004-05 that has the Guelph address. "The police called Health Canada to verify what I was saying, but of course Health Canada had on their records the wrong information," she said.

LeDuc said he has been growing his plants at Renda's home since 2001. He tried to grow the plants himself when he began using medicinal marijuana in 1999, but the plants kept dying.

"It is expensive to grow them," he said. "You need the lighting, the space, the ventilation and you have to know how to grow it. Plus I am afraid I would be a target for robberies and break-ins if I grew it in the city. I have had friends who were robbed at gunpoint for their marijuana."

Instead, LeDuc has been making the three-hour round trip to Renda's home for his marijuana.

He said the plants that were seized were four-weeks away from harvest and now he has nothing.

Health Canada spokesman Paul Duchesne refused to comment on LeDuc's specific case for privacy reasons, but said someone can designate another person to cultivate their marijuana.

He said the information Health Canada records and the information on the exemption cards includes the address of the person, the address of production, the address of storage and the maximum allowed to be cultivated.

"If someone isn't following what is on the card, they are in contravention of the Controlled Substance Act," said Duchesne.

Without his own supply, LeDuc said he may be forced to buy marijuana off the street, which comes with both financial and health costs.

Last time LeDuc bought marijuana off the streets it was mouldy and he suffered months of infections in his chest. "I don't have much of an option," he said. "It is either buy it off the street or take time off work."


Illustration(s):

Photo: GUELPH MERCURY PHOTO ILLUSTRATION
Guelph man smokes his medicinal mariguana.
Photo: Bob LeDuc


Category: Front Page; News
Uniform subject(s): Drug possession and trafficking
Story type(s): News
Edition: Final
Length: Long, 725 words

© 2005 Guelph Mercury. All rights reserved.
 

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