Medical marijuana dispensary managers plan a united front and appeals to government in the wake of an ultimatum from the Nanaimo RCMP to shut down shop or face arrests.
The Nanaimo RCMP put 10 medical marijuana dispensaries on notice Thursday that they had seven days to stop the sale of marijuana and marijuana derivatives or they could be subject to police enforcement.
Medical marijuana shops have been growing in number in Nanaimo, selling bud, tinctures and marijuana-infused brownies.
Written notice, given to dispensaries by the RCMP, advises the establishments that they are operating illegally and are trafficking cannabis contrary to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and operating outside of Health Canada regulations. If the pot shops don’t close, they will be subject to enforcement that includes arrests of employees and patrons, seizure of “offence-related” property and criminal prosecutions.
The recent police action is related to an ongoing commitment to public safety, according to an e-mail response from Nanaimo RCMP spokesman Const. Gary O’Brien. It’s important the RCMP’s position is made “very clear,” and police have notified businesses in person of the ramifications if illegal activity is detected, he said.
Medical marijuana dispensary managers say they were crushed and blindsided by the notice. Dispensary representatives, suppliers and customers met Thursday evening to explore next steps, with some suggesting a united front, an appeal to licensed patients to speak on the behalf of dispensaries and to write Nanaimo city council.
The group planned to attend a council meeting Monday and will hold a rally at city hall Wednesday (Nov. 18).
“I haven’t stopped crying all day,” said Brandy Cavanagh, general manager of Mid-Island Health and Wellness Association, who says it’s like closing a pharmacy because people rely on the dispensary that much.
The association serves 1,000 people, who seek CBD (cannabidiol) products, ointment and marijuana.
Cavanagh says she sees smiles and has received phone calls from people who’ve said they finally got a good night’s sleep, or that their mother, who has cancer, was able to eat because she vaporized a little bit.
“We are not bad people. We are not doing any harm,” she said.
Richard Scott, manager of Nature’s Source Society, hosted the meeting with other dispensaries and said he’s a bit shocked because so many dispensaries have been operating with no problem for quite some time, some for a couple of years. He said the shops will protest the police action, but whether they will all stay open is something that will be decided as a community.
Travis Lane, general manager of all Trees dispensaries on Vancouver Island, including Nanaimo, told the News Bulletin his company might respect the RCMP decision in some way, perhaps even locking its doors and handing out pamphlets to ask people to write their local MLA. But he also wants to consider the political climate.
“If we find that all the politics is positive and the RCMP are the only ones that want to do anything about it, I don’t think the RCMP will have the backing to do something,” said Lane. “It’s not their fault that it’s still illegal, but at the same if we can get the people that are their bosses, the people that call their shots, on our side then the threat disappears.”
O’Brien said the RCMP is taking a wait-and-see approach and couldn’t say what will happen after the seven days’ notice.
MLA speaks in favour of access to marijuana
With a federal government committed to legalization, the Nanaimo RCMP may want to consider waiting for further direction, says Nanaimo-North Cowichan NDP MLA, Doug Routley, who’s called for the immediate repeal of an order against medical marijuana dispensaries.
Routley says constituents have asked him for help, feeling as though their jobs and access to medicine are threatened after the Nanaimo RCMP delivered 10 notices to local medical marijuana dispensaries, ordering them to shut down in seven days or face enforcement.
He’s also taken to social media to express his views on the notice of enforcement.
In an e-mail to the News Bulletin, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman Gary O’Brien said it’s important the RCMP ensure individuals and businesses are fully aware of the business regulations, legislation and expectations moving forward.
Routley said he understands the RCMP is in a difficult place with the law, court rulings and regulations not brought together in a “workable way” for patients or law enforcement, but he also believes a sensible approach would be to wait for action from the new federal government.
“I am not able to act, obviously in the federal parliament, but I can make a request to the local RCMP to recognize that if you look at this previous federal election, 77 per cent of Nanaimoites who voted, voted for parties that support legalization,” he said.