The new medical marijuana dispensary on Third Avenue is staying open—for now.
“We will wait and see what the city says,” said WeeMedical operator Justin Liu, adding that he is happy to work with the city and the RCMP to work out what rules and regulations the dispensary should be operating under.
What form those regulations will take—and if there will be any at all—remains to be seen.
WeeMedical received a letter from Port Alberni RCMP Inspector Mac Richards stating 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.”
Richards said that investigating activities that fall outside of the law is just the police’s job—it’s not based on any orders from the city.
“Our opinion is it falls into our role here in the sense that it is illegal under the current legislation. We work under what the law is and place it into the priority the same as we do with any other investigation,” he said, adding that while the city has some input into what policing regulations are, “the city is always at arms length from the police.
The letter, he added, is not a guarantee of anything.
“It’s information. It clearly outlines what the law is and the possible actions that could take place under the law.”
It’s a law that Liu feels is outdated. He’d rather work with the city and the police and figure out more modern rules so that WeeMedical can provide a service that he feels is truly necessary.
“A girl came in with a sleeping disorder and arthritic pain. She had all the medication for it, all the pill bottles and she said ‘it doesn’t work… the only thing that works for me is marijuana.'”
Those, Liu said, are the people he wants to help.
“The existing system is failing. Let us know what guidelines there are. These are our set guidelines we work with and they’re know to work really well with over 3,000 patients but if you don’t feel it works well for you in this town then you tell me what works well and we’re going to make it work for you,” said Liu. “I’m not saying we’re coming in hard—you tell us what works and we’ll work with you.”
That includes any city regulations that council chooses to impose, although according to Mayor Mike Ruttan, “there has been no decision made by the city. It’s not to say that [the RCMP’s action] are not the right move but they’re acting on their own initiative.”
Ruttan said that in his opinion, the city’s actions need to stay within the legal guidelines.
“For me personally, we need to fit within the law and we have to operate within the law the way it stands now, not the way it might be.”
Liu said he would prefer work with the city.
“We spent $2800 to paint the roof… you don’t think we’d pay $1000 to have a proper permit? Set the guidelines and we well follow them, that’s what we want.”
According to Liu, WeeMedical is a registered non-profit and is thus exempt from business licencing fees. When speaking earlier this week, city planner Scott Smith would not go into hypotheticals regarding the types of licensing or permits that the city could impose on a medical marijuana dispensary, he did confirm that “non-profits of a legal nature would not require a business licence.”
Smith added that WeeMedical currently has “no approvals from the city.”
Coun. Sharie Minions said that while she completely supports and will not interfere with whatever the RCMP’s action end up being, she’d prefer to work with them.
“If the dispensary continues to operate, I’d personaly like to see us as a city take a more proactive approach to working with them,” she said, adding that this includes regulations and building codes.
“My biggest concern is that teh marijuana sold at dispensaries is Health Canda regulated and it’s not, necessarily. I’d like to do what we can to make sure the public understands this so that if they do purchase the product, they are fully aware of what they’re buying.”
According to Liu, any marijuana sold by WeeMedical comes from licensed growers and has strains and THC amounts clearly displayed.
“Before Tilray, all these companies came around, there were licensed personal growers and those are the people that we get from.”