Pubdate: Wed, 05 May 2010
Source: Maple Ridge News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2010 Maple Ridge News
Author: Monisha Martins
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal - Canada)


A dispensary to distribute medicinal marijuana in Maple Ridge opened
its doors to its first customers Tuesday.

In the first half-hour of an open house the previous day, eight people
signed up to become members of the Taggs Medical Cannabis Dispensary,
operated by the newly-formed non-profit Always Growing Green Society.

All members of the dispensary must have documentation from Health
Canada or a registered physician to use its services.

Dale Sharp was one of the first to walk through the dispensary's door
and quickly filled out the forms that will allow him to purchase
medical marijuana at the 224th Street location.

"I think it's about time something like this happened in Maple Ridge
because marijuana is a great medical herb," said Sharp, who uses
cannabis to treat epilepsy and glaucoma.

Society founder and president Michael Joinson held the open house to
introduce neighbours to the business, located in a renovated single
family home south of Lougheed Highway at 11696 - 224th St.

On Tuesday, he began selling a variety of strains of cannabis, as well
as other cannabis products, such as baked goods and other edibles,
extracts, oils, concentrates, capsules, and sprays.

"We have to go from Maple Ridge to Vancouver to access medicine in a
safe environment. Why isn't there anything outside of Vancouver in the
Lower Mainland?" asks Joinson, who uses medical marijuana to treat a
spinal chord injury.

"I don't think people who are suffering should make that trip. I think
there is a lot of people here and even farther away who need a place
where they can go."

Cannabis compassion clubs like Taggs are not legal in Canada and are
not part of the federal medical cannabis program.

Their status is still under debate and law enforcement often turn a
blind eye to their services as long as the dispensaries serve patients
who have documentation.

The only way to possess or cultivate cannabis legally for medical
purposes is with a licence from Health Canada.

After more than seven years of the program's operation, only 4,869
people in Canada have been authorized to possess the narcotic plant
under Marihuana Medical Access Regulations.

Of those only a select few (1,137 people in Canada) hold a Personal
Use Production Licence, or Designated-Person Production Licence, from
Health Canada - a permit that allows you to grow legal pot.

Taggs dispensary will be getting its supply of cannabis, including
Indica and Sativa strains, from The Medical Cannabis Dispensary in
Vancouver, operated by Dana Larsen, a founding member of both the
Marijuana Party of Canada and B.C. Marijuana Party.

Joinson has not obtained a business licence from the District of Maple
Ridge because the dispensary is running as a non-profit society.

He said he canvassed the area before the business opened.

"I've talked to a lot of people in the neighbourhood and nobody has
problems with it," Joinson said.

"We are not in one of the best neighbourhoods in Maple Ridge, anyway.
You can't make it worse. In fact, we are hoping to make it better."

But the District of Maple Ridge isn't welcoming Joinson's business and
neither are residents who are working to clean up the blighted area of
downtown Maple Ridge.

"I'm PO'd," said Mayor Ernie Daykin.

"It's not something I want in our community."

Tyler Ducharme, who spearheaded the now-defunct Maple Ridge Coalition
of Concerned Citizens, calls the location "odd."

"In principal, I don't have an issue with the idea at all, but once
again the community has been given no input until after all the
decisions have been made," said Ducharme who lives nearby.

The dispensary is also being criticized by Michelle Rainey, a Maple
Ridge resident and vice-president of the B.C. Marijuana Party.

She is concerned about its location, the possibility of it being
targeted by thieves and wonders who supplies the dispensary with
marijuana and whether its owners will take advantage of people who
have licences to grow medical marijuana.

"I wouldn't open a dispensary unless I had permission from the city
and its residents," said Rainey.

"In this case, they just popped out of the woodwork and that bothers
me greatly. I'm not trying to prevent a compassionate club from
opening but I'm just trying to give them some constructive advice."

Meanwhile, the Ridge Meadows RCMP won't say whether they'll be raiding
the marijuana dispensary.

"We have in no way been advised of this fledgling service," said Supt.
Dave Walsh.

"If they have federal authorization, Ridge Meadows RCMP has no
jurisdiction to prevent them from running the dispensary. If they
don't have the authorization, they will be dealt with like every other
citizen and charged with trafficking in a controlled substance."
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