Israel’s Terminally Ill To Cops: Keep Hands Off Medical Marijuana

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Thumbnail image for A man sits on a wheelchair as he is helped to smoke cannabis in Tel Aviv (Reuters).jpeg
Photo: Reuters
A patient sits in a wheelchair as a Tikkun Olam worker in Tel Aviv helps him smoke cannabis from a bong.

​Dozens of disabled and terminally ill Israelis protested outside a Tel Aviv medical marijuana clinic on Sunday, responding to a recent police raid of the clinic.

The protest came four days after police raided a storefront dispensary run by the group Tikkun Olam, the nonprofit where patients came to get medicinal cannabis. During the raid, police arrested two managers and held them for questioning for several hours, supposedly on suspicion of “drug trafficking,” reports Ben Hartman at The Jerusalem Post.
Police actions against the storefront and its patients mainly harm gravely ill persons seeking medical treatment, said Shai Meir, spokesman for Tikkun Olam, Israel’s largest supplier of medical marijuana.


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Photo: Reuters
Worker from Tikkun Olam company rolls medicinal cannabis joints in Tel Aviv

​”The bottom line is that the only ones who have suffered as a result of these police actions are the patients,” Meir said. “Every arrest, every detention of a patient disrupts their treatment, treatment which demands routine. This causes serious harm to the patients.”
Dozens of patients, many of them in wheelchairs, were trying Sunday to get their monthly supply at a makeshift counter set up in the back yard of an apartment in north Tel Aviv that serves as Tikkun Olam’s headquarters. Many of the patients were not able to receive their cannabis after the group closed its doors following the police raid on Wednesday.
By Sunday afternoon, the courtyard was full of patients showing their prescriptions and ID cards, handing over 400 shekels for their monthly supply of cannabis as a cloud of marijuana smoke hung in the air.

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Photo: Reuters
An Israeli man receives rolled cannabis joints from a Tikkun Olam distribution center in Tel Aviv

​Yedidya Kanuf, one patient who participated in the protest, sat inside the apartment in a wheelchair hooked to a life support system, where he has been confined since an automobile accident a decade ago left him paralyzed from the neck down.
Through labored breathing, Kanuf described the cannabis he receives for his pain as nothing short of a life saver.
“Before I was on medical marijuana, I was being treated for pain with all types of very strong drugs,” Kanuf said. “I never got out of bed, never saw the sun. Once I started taking prescription cannabis, the amount of drugs I took plummeted. When people call it a drug I get annoyed because for me it has given me life.”
Tel Aviv police claimed last Wednesday they executed the raid because they had “received a number of complaints” that the organization was handing out marijuana exceeding the maximum legal dosage, which is 30 grams per month.

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Photo: Reuters
Tikkun Olam worker steps among cannabis plants at a growing facility near the northern Israeli city of Safed

​But Meir said the police were guilty of entrapment for sending an undercover officer who posed as a medical marijuana patient, reports The Jerusalem Post.
Meir said the undercover officer would come into the storefront a few times a month crying and begging to receive additional marijuana, pleading that 30 grams a month — the maximum the dispensary is allowed to give out by law — was not enough to treat her pain.
“She would receive her monthly dosage and then come back again and again, crying and begging, exploiting the sensitivities of the employees who acted out of concern for her well-being,” Meir said.
The undercover agent had a legitimate prescription for medical marijuana issued by the Health Ministry, which he and Tikkun Olam see as “a disgraceful cooperation between the police and the Health Ministry to entrap us.”
Police claimed they suspected a “significant amount” of marijuana was given to criminal organizations who acquired fake prescriptions.
There has been a severe hashish shortage for the past year across Israel and the Middle East, and police claimed “criminal elements” may be finding ways to sell medical marijuana on the black market in order to meet some of the demand caused by the shortage.
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