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Not even two weeks after being raided by the Windsor police drug squad for allegedly selling cannabis illegally, the Compassion House was packing them in again this week, only now the pot was being given away.
Volunteers were busy rolling joints and passing them along to anyone with food or clothing donations for local charities who visited the marijuana-based business at 405 Wyandotte St. W.
“This is what it’s all about at Compassion House,” owner Leo Lucier said Friday between truck runs of coats and cans to locations like the Downtown Mission and the Windsor Youth Centre. The food bank at a local women’s shelter was another of this week’s drop-off destinations.
More than six tonnes of food and more than 300 coats were collected over five days, said Lucier, a longtime pot activist and one of five people who, earlier this month, became the first in Windsor to be charged under the new federal Cannabis Act.
In return, about 3,000 pre-rolled joints were handed out to the donors of those goods.
He came to our rescue
The possession (up to 30 grams) and consumption of recreational cannabis by adults became legal in Canada on Oct. 17. In Ontario, however, only online retail sales are legal, and — until next April — purchases can only be made from the government-owned Ontario Cannabis Store.
“I’m thinking outside the box here,” said Lucier, whose activism and involvement in cannabis has landed him behind bars on a number of occasions. Based on this week’s response, “people seem to like what I’m doing.”
Lucier was so busy playing Santa on Friday that he called his employer, saying he’d be late for his usual afternoon shift.
“He came to our rescue,” said Donna Roy, program manager at the Windsor Youth Centre. Lucier had popped in earlier in the day to drop off some children’s comforters and was shown the bare cupboards at the WYC’s pantry, set up to help hungry young people stretch their food dollars.
“They showed me the empty shelves and I said, ‘You’ve got to be joking.’ I said ‘I’ll be back,’” said Lucier.
“Most youths have backpacks, so we fill them up,” said Roy. Young parents who meet on Tuesdays, the young working poor and those on social assistance or disability are all helped. But until Lucier returned later that same day with a truckload of donated food, and a promise of more, it was slim pickings in the pantry.
“We’re doing a lot better now,” said Roy.
Perhaps one of the more surprising food donors to visit the Compassion House on Friday was a retired Windsor drug squad sergeant who knew Lucier from the days when he would regularly arrest him.
“He’s doing a good thing here — he’s helping people out,” said Kevin Trudell, who dropped off cans of food and spaghetti sauce and boxes of Kraft Dinner. Lucier might have been a marijuana drug dealer, but he’s “not a big bad criminal,” said Trudell.
Retired from the Windsor Police Service in 2011 after a 32-year career in policing, including 11 years on the drug unit, Trudell said he heard about what Lucier was doing this week and wanted to show his support.
“I arrested people for marijuana, because that’s what the laws were,” said Trudell. And that included Lucier.
Trudell said he’s seen how some people have been helped by cannabis, including the elderly woman using a cane he met while at the Compassion House and a neighbour who treats a leg infection with cannabis oil.
The retired drug cop didn’t take home any of the free joints on offer. “I’m totally against drugs,” said Trudell, adding he’s never tried pot and he “absolutely” doesn’t want to see his kids using it.
But most cops are like himself, said Trudell, and differentiate “hugely” between marijuana and other street drugs that remain illegal, including cocaine, methamphetamine, oxycodone and fentanyl. In more than three decades of policing, he said he never saw anyone overdose on pot and would rather see police resources focused on the deadlier drugs.