Pot dispensaries plan to defy order

New Nanaimo Cannabis Coalition reaches out to all levels of government for help in days leading up to a Nanaimo RCMP deadline.

Nanaimo medical marijuana dispensaries will remain open, despite the threat of police enforcement.

Medical marijuana dispensaries have reached out to government for clarity on potential new regulations and help in the lead-up to a deadline to stop selling marijuana. But dispensaries have no plans to close, according to the new Nanaimo Cannabis Coalition.

“Our coalition has stated we will remain open … because people need their medicine,” said Matthew O’Donnell, coalition spokesman.

Ten medical marijuana dispensaries were given notice last Thursday by the Nanaimo RCMP to stop selling marijuana and marijuana derivatives in seven days or they could face police enforcement, including the arrest of employees and patrons.

No further questions are being answered by the Nanaimo RCMP, but in an earlier e-mail spokesman Const. Gary O’Brien said action is related to an ongoing commitment to public safety and to notify dispensaries about the ramifications of non-compliance with the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Health Canada only licenses six B.C. producers, including Tilray, to sell to registered, medically prescribed patients.

Still, local pot retailers have been openly selling bud, tinctures and marijuana-infused edibles to Nanaimo customers, some for close to a year.

On Monday, O’Donnell appealed to Nanaimo city council to stand with “thousands” of medical marijuana users and to ask the RCMP for a cooling-off period while the new Liberal government decides how it will legalize marijuana. The coalition will also lab test products to medicinal standards and welcomes regulation, he said.

“How can our members, who suffer from cancer, chronic pain and serious illness, be treated as criminals today knowing that in the coming months any adult will be able to freely purchase and consume the same product?” O’Donnell asked.

The coalition has also reached out to the provincial and federal political representatives, including Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Sheila Malcolmson. City council made no motion to help the coalition.

Malcolmson said she’s curious about the timing of police action, and has called for a briefing from the Nanaimo RCMP, as well as a conversation with Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.

“If the law is about to change … this seems an unfortunate time to go ahead and enforce the Conservative government rules,” she said. “I am concerned this is alarming medical marijuana patients unnecessarily and it may be using public enforcement resources in an inefficient way.”

reporter@nanaimobulletin.com