Police raid three medical marijuana dispensaries

NANAIMO – Arrests made and product seized at three locations; dispensaries plan to remain open.

Empty jars, T-shirts and the lingering smell of marijuana were nearly all that was left at Limelife Society dispensary Tuesday, as the owner closed up shop in the wake of police raids.

Hash, bud, cookies and candy advertised in an online store menu were gone from the Nicol Street storefront. Twin paper cups had been left on a coffee table next to a crinkled scrap of rolling paper and a Nintendo controller, there were boxes of rolling paper on a shelf and the fridge was almost bare.

The shop closed as the Nanaimo RCMP raided three other Nanaimo dispensaries and arrested employees, according to the owner, who asked not to be named. He’s now waiting to see what happens.

The police executed search warrants on Nature’s Source Society, Phoenix Pain Management Society and Trees Dispensary Nanaimo Tuesday, close to three weeks after putting 11 medical marijuana dispensaries on notice that they had seven days to stop selling marijuana before they could face enforcement, including the seizure of “offence-related” property.

Executives from the three dispensaries claim 16 people were arrested and charged. Trees Dispensary Nanaimo and Phoenix Pain Management Society also say police took everything, including cash and product.

At a press conference Wednesday, all of the dispensaries announced they’ll remain open and Trees also called for the federal government to immediately strike marijuana from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

The Nanaimo RCMP were unavailable for an update on arrests by press time.

“We have an obligation to our 1,200 patients to provide them with their medicine and that, in my opinion, morally trumps everything,” said Matthew O’Donnell, communications director for Phoenix Pain Management Society, later adding he’s terrified, but believes he’s doing the right thing.

A Nanaimo RCMP press release, sent Tuesday morning, said several public complaints were received about illegal marijuana dispensaries.

“Our approach has always been to address public concerns, consult our contracting partners, stakeholders and allow for our investigations to determine the way forward. That was done in this case,” said Nanaimo RCMP Supt. Mark Fisher.

The city was given information about the warrants as police were executing them, according to Mayor Bill McKay.

“It was not something we were surprised with. They did serve notice,” said McKay, who doesn’t believe the city could have done anything. Licensing and regulation on land use will not protect dispensaries from federal prosecution, he said.

Trees Dispensary management was shocked and disgusted by police action.

Travis Lane, general manager for Trees Dispensary, isn’t surprised the RCMP followed through on its warning but he is at the arrest of $15-an-hour employees.

“Really they are free to do this if they want, it’s just the way that they’ve gone about it seems very non-Canadian, non-polite and non-compassionate,” said Lane.

Lane said at a press conference that executives and senior managers will work the counter at the Nanaimo location.

“We believe in everything we do, we believe we are doing this for the greater good and we believe we are doing this is the most legitimate way the government will let us to it,” he said.

Anita Roy, manager of the Nanaimo store, told the News Bulletin she was shocked at the enforcement, but also questioned why there’s a difference between Nanaimo and municipalities like Vancouver that’s set out zoning and business-licence regulations for dispensaries.

“It just doesn’t seem excusable that Canadian citizens can buy freely and comfortably and legally in one city and not in the next city within the same province,” she said.

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