A former elite Canadian diver is facing charges after police pulled him over for speeding but discovered marijuana, shatter and hashish worth more than $100,000 in his car.
Police says Wegadesk Gorup-Paul, 28, was released with a requirement to appear in court March 9 when he will be charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking a controlled substance, which comes with a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Gorup-Paul competed internationally for Canada for a number of years before quitting diving in 2008.
In a phone interview with CBC News, Gorup-Paul claims he was working for a medical marijuana producer delivering the drugs to medical marijuana outlets on the Lower Mainland.
"The product has to somehow get to the storefront," he said. "The people I was working with showed me government-issued documents stating they were allowed to produce."
Gorup-Paul said in retrospect he didn't fully understand the risk he was taking. He also said he is dismayed at the lack of support he's received from the cannabis community.
"I believed that if I were to be stopped by police that even if the product were to be taken from me, that the people ... the whole community I'm involved in, would step forward. Obviously now that it's happened ... most of the dispensaries that I've been helping haven't stepped forward. As well as the producers, they haven't because they don't want to jeopardize what they have going on."
Need for clarity around medical marijuana
Gorup-Paul would not identify who he was working for but says he hopes his situation works to highlight the need for clarity around medical marijuana.
"I do hope that my involvement, and the light that's brought to this, shows how the full legislation to this industry needs to be there," he said. "Had I been able to apply for a permit from the government to do what I do then I would have done it."
Under current Health Canada regulations there are six highly regulated B.C.-based medical marijuana companies holding licences under the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulation (MMPR). They can only distribute product to individual consumers through the mail.
There is a second class of licensed growers who can produce marijuana for individual use or for other authorized user under Marihuana for Medical Access Regulation, but MMAR licence holders are normally restricted to having a maximum quantity of 150 grams, equivalent to one-third of a pound.
Even though medical marijuana storefronts are open and operating across British Columbia, and a number of municipalities are moving to license them, they are still considered illegal under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
'Marijuana is still illegal'
Staff Sgt. James Anderson of the Capital Regional District Integrated Road Safety Unit says as far as police are concerned there's no grey area when it comes finding drugs in cars.
"Marijuana is still illegal," he said in a phone interview. "Possession of marijuana, transporting marijuana is still illegal."
But Gorup-Paul doesn't believe he should be treated as a criminal.
"What I was doing was in the best interest of my community. I wasn't harming anybody doing what I was doing. There was no criminal activity," he said. "I was committing my energy to an industry which has been recognized as a medicinal industry."
Gorup-Paul was pulled over after being clocked driving 87 kilometres an hour in a 50 kilometre zone on the approach to the Swartz Bay ferry terminal.
Police detected the smell of marijuana and found 20 one-pound bags of dried marijuana, 65 grams of shatter — a strong marijuana derivative, 28 grams of hashish and $3,500 in cash in the trunk of the car.
On his Facebook page, Gorup-Paul claims marijuana has helped him overcome alcohol addiction and other personal issues related to being sexually abused as a youth.