No enforcement yet at marijuana dispensaries

Nanaimo medical marijuana dispensaries are seeking regulations from City of Nanaimo.

Police have taken no enforcement action against medical marijuana dispensaries since the deadline  for storefronts to shut down passed last week, giving the Nanaimo Cannabis Coalition hope it’s won a cooling-off period.

But the Nanaimo RCMP never said enforcement would come on day eight or nine, says Supt. Mark Fisher.

Ten medical marijuana dispensaries were given a seven-day deadline from the Nanaimo RCMP on Nov. 12 to shut down or face potential enforcement, including arrests of employees and patrons on site.

While some dispensaries did close storefronts temporarily last week, coalition spokesman Matthew O’Donnell said they are currently open and there have been no raids. Members are still worried, however, about the threat of police action, according to O’Donnell, who hopes a cooling-off period has begun.

The coalition is now seeking government regulation and appeared at a council meeting Monday with Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries president Jamie Shaw to pitch the idea. Civic politicians made no move to look into regulating dispensaries as other communities, like Victoria and Port Alberni, have done.

Mayor Bill McKay called it an illegal activity and said regulating dispensaries won’t shield them from the law. He sees licensing and regulation happening only after the federal government changes the rules.

“People seem to believe that if the city simply licensed them and regulates them from a land-use perspective that all of their problems will go away. Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said.

Coun. Gord Fuller said council is in an information-gathering stage.

“There’s just way too much to look at right now… Vancouver, Victoria and now Port Alberni are all looking at different options with dealing with the dispensaries and I think we’re going to have to look at a Nanaimo option,” he said.

The RCMP investigation into dispensaries is ongoing. Fisher told the News Bulletin enforcement became a priority as people brought forward concerns about what they saw in dispensaries.

While the detachment superintendent is listening to political views on the issue, he says he has to make a policing decision for the community at the end of the day and with information others may not be privy to. Action is also based on the laws of today.

The Nanaimo RCMP never said it was going to take action immediately with dispensaries.

“We said we are giving you ample opportunity to make a decision and we’re letting you know we do view this as illegal activity and after the seven days you may very well be subject to some sort of enforcement action,” he said. “That’s exactly what the message said and that’s still the way it stands.”

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