By Jeannette Tossounian
December 10, 2018
While the mainstream media in Niagara is abuzz about if and where to put a cannabis store, owners of an established cannabis outlet who operated for two and a half years downtown St. Catharines are hushed as the courts decided not prosecute them after closing their business and seizing their product.
Kelly Kirby, a.k.a Kelly ‘Kush,’ devoted over a year to a legal challenge defending her cannabis operation, the Niagara Cannabis Club, which at the time was located at 108 Hartzel Rd, was closed in August of 2017 after a raid by Niagara Regional Police officers. Kush and a few others were charged with Possession of a Schedule II Substance for the Purpose of Trafficking, Possession of Proceeds Over $5000.
All charges were withdrawn on October 17, 2018, the same day cannabis officially became legalized in Canada.
It took her co-accused a few denials before Kush was finally approved for Legal Aid and backed up by lawyer Jack Lloyd. Kush explains, “Seems like once Legal Aid was approved, that’s when they wanted to withdraw the case. We were preparing for a 30 day trial with at least 35 witnesses and experts. That’s when, with the judges direction, the charges were withdrawn.”
In a Facebook event post promoting one of a sting of fundraisers, Kush states, “It’s been a little over a year since the raids happened on the Niagara Cannabis Club, two and a half years of helping those in need to be taken away from us, as well jumping through hoops from the city. After 17 court appearances and $14,000 in legal fees, all charges were withdrawn by the crown with the recommendation by the judge. The real loss is not a monetary value, but the access to affordable medicine for those who maybe choosing between medicine and food. Our compassion club was ripped away, and we are ready to rebuild from scratch.”
The Niagara Cannabis Club was among several other Niagara pot shops that were raided in the last couple of years as police across the country closed down unlicensed operations to make way for the legal market. The Niagara Cannabis Club was headlined in the media with a NRP statement calling them “Nothing more than drug traffickers.” However, when the courts dropped all charges, the media failed to follow up on the story to let the public know Kush and her friends won. It’s now ingrained the people’s mind that these brave pot smokers who contributed to the movement to insure that Canadians no longer become criminalized for their need or want of weed, now have to wear the discrediting public name as “criminal” due to the media’s refusal to set them socially free of persecution.
Kush’s activism has not ended here.
With endless supporters throughout the Niagara Region and beyond, she continues to advocate for cannabis users, particularly medicinal users, and is hopeful she will rebuild the compassion club through continuous fundraising events. She longs for the days when she would have bands, entertainment and a wide range of community activities in the meeting space she happily provided.
“I am currently working in a non-profit to help those medical patients have access, and not have to choose between their medicine and food. The problem we are currently facing is now that the government went recreational, there is no longer access, for many reasons, affordability. They are all sold out, even children who are medical patients do not have access to their seizure medications. A retail store can’t be sustained by LP (licenced producers), they would have to be a licenced provider or microgrower themselves. At this time the cost of a microgrow will be $25,000 non-refundable application fee with Health Canada. This is ridiculous, this plant needs to be free once and for all, everyone should have access. The fight continues …”
If anyone would like to help out Kush and her efforts towards making sure cannabis users in Niagara have safe reliable access, she welcomes like-minded supporters to join in the cause. You could find her at the Niagara Cannabis Club Facebook page.