Part 2

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Mar 27, 2005
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Guelph Mercury
Local news, Saturday, April 16, 2005, p. A3
Pot bust hurts ailing city resident


It's not easy to feel sorry for people who have lost their access to illegal drugs.

When police busted up a crack house in my neighbourhood a little while ago, I shed not one tear for all the moonstruck nuts who would have to find somewhere else to trade their ill-gotten cash for brain-crushing substances.

But Bob LeDuc is another story.

The local self-employed guitar teacher uses marijuana to combat the crippling effects of psoriasis, irritable bowel syndrome and temporal lobe epilepsy. Without the drug, which he calls "medicine," LeDuc is prone to complex epileptic seizures. These seizures, often in the dead of night when the level of THC in his blood drops off, bring with them loss of awareness and impairment of memory.

In the past he has awakened with a dislocated shoulder, broken blood vessels in his finger, cuts on his head and other injuries, all blamed on night seizures.

When LeDuc, 55, needs to fill a prescription, he heads to his very exclusive pharmacy, about an hour away close to the border of Wellington and Grey counties. The pharmacy was located in a growing room at the sprawling Dundalk-area home of his friend and fellow medical marijuana-user Marco Renda.

The pharmacy was located there.

On Wednesday, police officers swooped down on Renda's rural home after a month-long investigation into marijuana allegedly being shipped out of Canada to pot users in the United States and the United Kingdom. During a search of the home, officers came across the growing room in which 109 marijuana plants were nearing harvest age.

Seventy-eight of the plants were Renda's, which he is permitted to grow thanks to a Health Canada designation that exempts him from sections of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

The remaining 31 plants -- determined to be the number of plants by which Renda was exceeding his exemption -- were chopped down and taken away by police. Those were Bob LeDuc's plants.

In 1999, LeDuc became one of the first two dozen Canadians granted a Health Canada exemption allowing him to legally possess and use marijuana. His exemption, renewed annually, was later changed to also allow him to produce marijuana, and designated Renda's home as LeDuc's growing site.

Until last October.

When LeDuc received his current exemption card, the growing site had been changed to his own address, where he has never grown marijuana.

He called Health Canada to alert them to the mistake, but they never sent a corrected card.

So he called again. And again.

"I eventually gave up," LeDuc told a Mercury reporter this week. "I thought it must not be a big deal."

He is now agonizing over that decision.

Without proof, the remaining 31 plants were being grown illegally. Police seized them and charged Renda with production of a controlled substance.

"I feel responsible for that charge because I didn't do everything I should have to get the problem corrected," LeDuc told me yesterday. "It's become my full-time job to get that charge dropped."

The production charge is among the least of Renda's problems. Police and the courts take a dim view of sending marijuana outside of the country, and will no doubt come down hard on Renda for those allegations.

Renda, 45, who has battled hepatitis C for more than two decades, has slid seamlessly from the role of sickly marijuana user into that of medical marijuana crusader -- and in the process drawing more than his share of attention both positive and negative.

"My neck is on the line here," Renda told me in October 2002 when I was invited to attend a "harvest party" with several Health Canada exemptees at his home. "I've got to have compassion and help out my fellow human beings. I don't care if it's legal or not."

At the time Renda was on the radar screen of local drug cops, but was not actually facing any charges.

This week, minutes after being released on bail with a pile of charges against him, Renda made it clear a night in jail has not deterred him.

"They're not going to stop me," he scoffed, sitting in the courthouse corridor waiting to sign his bail order . "If someone presents medical evidence that marijuana helps them I will do what I can to help them."

Scott Tracey's column normally appears Wednesdays and Saturdays. He can be reached at 822-4310, ext. 232, or by e-mail at stracey at guelphmercury dotcom

Category: News
Uniform subject(s): Drug possession and trafficking; Laws and regulations
Well I am a FREE MAN and have been since all charges against me were dropped when I plead Guilty to Public Mischief misuse of the postal service without proper authorization. I got 2 years probation and my last visit with my probation officer is on May 26 2009.

I have another court battle in the works but this time it's me taking the Government to court in a civil case.

Take Care and Peace
Marco Renda
great news glad to hear its all going good for you. keep it up you are not alone!
Marco, i commend you on standing up for what is right. maybe the leo's in Canada can use this as an example of what not to do, dont be hasty when it comes to chopping down someones medicine. that type of action should Only be done when they know that the extra plants do not belong to another licensed mmj patient. once they are cut down there is no going back after they realize the mix up.

shouldnt there be a time frame of a few weeks in which health canada has to respond to changes in a registered persons info relating to quantity of plants and location of grow? it seems to me that if that info would have been processed in a timely manner then this situation would never have come up.

leo's need to understand that not everyone can and is willing to grow their own and individuall like you are rare.

thanks for helping out others in need

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