On Nov. 25, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police warned the owners of the "gray market" cannabis dispensaries in Nanaimo, British Columbia that raids could be imminent. On Dec. 1, they carried out that threat by serving search warrants to three of the 10 dispensaries that received cease-and-desist orders on Nov. 12.
Police raided the city's three largest cannabis stores: Trees Dispensary, Phoenix Pain Management Society and Nature's Source Society. In total, 16 people were arrested and charged with illegally trafficking a controlled substance.
Anita Roy - the manager of Trees - told The Nanaimo Bulletin: "I wish it would have been me because innocent employees should not be arrested or harassed in this way."
#Nanaimo #marijuana Police on scene at Trees Marijuana dispensary on Bowen Road. pic.twitter.com/QVgwsgnCQ5
— Chris Bush (@ChrisBushphotog) December 1, 2015
According to Canadian law, all storefront cannabis dispensaries are illegal. So the police are within their right to raid the shops in Nanaimo. However, police action is still surprising because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged to legalized recreational cannabis use in Canada.
The government hasn't specifically addressed reforms to medical marijuana regulations that don't permit the operation of dispensaries. In any case, the RCMP said in a press release that they will enforce the rules as they are, regardless of possible Liberal government plans to eventually change them.
"Marihuana [sic] is regulated as a controlled substance under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) which prohibits the importation, exportation, trafficking, cultivation or production, and possession of it or its derivatives, unless in accordance with the guidelines set out in the Marihuana Medical Access Regulation (MMAR) and Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulation (MMPR)," said the release. "The MMAR and MMPR sets out mechanisms within which marihuana and its derivatives are legally available to patients with a prescription provided by a medical practitioner. "
The RCMP also say they are responding to complaints about the stores selling cannabis to minors as well as people without prescriptions for medical marijuana: "When I have reports of storefronts selling marihuana to youth and concerned community members approaching me about it, we are compelled to take enforcement action," Supt. Mark Fisher said in the press release.
But some neighbors are more upset about the raids. Ray Klahoz - a local business owner - told CHEK News: "I'm not too happy. They've been good guys and good neighbors. We talk to them. We've had no problems with them."
The RCMP have not indicated when or if they will raid the other five dispensaries. Meanwhile, the dispensers are pledging to defy the law while trying to cooperate with law enforcers:
"We are planning on reopening every dispensary in town in the face of this police action," Alex Rob of Trees Dispensary told CHEK News. "We would like to work with the RCMP and the City of Nanaimo in order to put in place standards for cannabis dispensaries to operate in this jurisdiction."