Update: On Wednesday (Oct. 27) morning (after the News went to press) WeeMedical received a cease and desist letter from the Port Alberni RCMP. The letter was signed by Inspector Mac Richards and stated that “if your illegal business practices do not cease, I will consider taking action in the future which may include your business being subject to search and seizure of offence related evidence and persons associated with your business being subject to charges related to contraventions of the CDSA (Controlled Drugs and Substances Act) for unlawful possession of cannabis marijuana, for possession of cannabis marijuana for the purpose of trafficking and for trafficking cannabis marijuana.”
Operator Justin Liu says that WeeMedical plans to remain open and await the city’s decision.
The article below was written before the cease and desist letter was delivered. An updated story will be posted tomorrow.
A controversial new medical marijuana dispensary has opened its doors in Port Alberni’s uptown. Whether it will stay there remains to be seen.
WeeMedical opened its doors on Monday morning after hiring staff via social media last week.
Operated by Justin Liu, WeeMedical will dispense marijuana face to face to those who have a prescription from a doctor; either the one they have on staff or an independent one. It’s a model he uses at a similar dispensary in Nanaimo, where they are still operational and Liu said they have never had a police complaint.
It is, however, a model that is currently illegal, Port Alberni RCMP Inspector Mac Richards said.
“As it is set up, those are illegal and are not approved so as a result we will be investigating and taking appropriate followup as required,” said Richards.
Liu, who said that WeeMedical is a registered non-profit, believes that times are changing for marijuana usage.
“The writing’s on the wall… the Liberals are in, it’s being legalized,” said Liu.
“If you look at Vancouver, there’s more dispensaries than there are Starbucks,” he added.
“We operate on the highest standard of if you need it medicinally—such as if you have fibromyalgia, cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic migraines, chronic back pain, and you can prove that you do have those ailments then we’re substituting the typical drugs for that.”
How long they will remain operation is to be seen.
City planner Scott Smith said that the dispensary has “no approvals from the city.”
While Smith wouldn’t speculate as to the hypothetical approvals that could be imposed on a marijuana dispensary, he did state that “non-profits of a legal nature would not require a business licence.”
However, permits for renovations may still be required depending on the circumstances, Smith added.
It’s not just the legality of WeeMedical that has some residents worried, however.
Trevor Bertrand of the Port Alberni Cannabis Club and a medical user of marijuana feels like the dispensary jumped the gun.
“The so-called medical cannabis setup on Third Avenue is illegal,” Bertrand told city council on Monday night.
“The storefront model doesn’t exist and is illegal.”
Only Health Canada, Bertrand said, can licence dispensaries to mail out—and only mail out—medical marijuana to people with a prescription.
“The sealed containers must be labelled with how much THC is in the cannabis,” said Bertrand, adding that edibles are not available for legal, medical usage.
“Without proper labels in the storefront model, unsuspecting adults and children can overdose,” he said.
Where unlicensed dispensaries get their cannabis from is also questionable, he said.
“Cannabis in these storefront models is coming from organized crime as they have no access to licenced producers. They are basically storefront drug dealers.”
City council has yet to make a decision regarding the dispensary. Coun. Chris Alemany said that he is “expecting that the issue will come to the next public meeting.”
The next regular council meeting is on Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. at city hall.