Terminally ill protestors 311.
(photo credit: Benjamin Hartman)
Dozens of disabled and terminally ill Israelis protested outside a Tel Aviv medical marijuana clinic on Sunday, in response to recent police actions against the clinic.
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The protest came four days after police raided a storefront on Ibn Gvirol run by “Tikkun Olam”, where patients would come to get their doses. During the raid, police arrested two managers of the storefront and held them for questioning for several hours, on suspicion of drug trafficking.
Shai Meir, spokesman for Tikkun Olam, Israel’s largest medical marijuana supplier, told reporters at the organization’s headquarters in an apartment in north Tel Aviv that police actions against the clinic and its patients mainly harms those seeking medical treatment.
“The bottom line is that the only ones who have suffered as a result of these police actions are the patients. 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, clamored to receive
their monthly doses at a makeshift drug counter set up in the
apartment’s back yard on Sunday. Many of the patients were not able to
receive their cannabis after Tikkun Olam closed their doors following
the police raid last Wednesday, and by Sunday afternoon the courtyard
was full of patients showing their prescriptions and identification
cards, handing over 400 shekels for their monthly dose as a cloud of
marijuana smoke hung in the air.
One patient who took part in the protest, Yedidya Kanuf, sat inside the
apartment in a wheelchair hooked up to a life support system, where he
has been confined since a car accident ten years earlier left him
paralyzed from the neck down.
His breathing labored, Kanuf described the cannabis he receives for his pain as nothing short of a lifesaver.
“Before I was on medical marijuana, I was being treated for pain with
all types of very strong drugs. 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,” Kanuf said.
Tel Aviv police said last Wednesday that they carried out the raid
because they had received a number of complaints that the organization
was handing out marijuana in excess of the maximum legal dosage of 30
grams a month. Police said they suspect that a significant amount of
marijuana was given to criminal organizations who acquired fake
prescriptions. For the past year, there has been a severe hash shortage
across Israel, and police believe that 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.