Pubdate: Thu, 05 Nov 2015
Source: Penticton Herald (CN BC)
Copyright: 2015 The Okanagan Valley Group of Newspapers
Author: Joe Fries
Page: A1


Owner of Marijuana Compassion Club Says Clients Don't Require Health 
Canada Licence

Despite police and the city not recognizing the legitimacy of his 
operation, the owner of Penticton's first marijuana compassion club 
insists he's not breaking any laws.

"All I'm doing is acting as an intermediary of a legal product to a 
legal recipient," said Jukka Laurio, who opened Herbal Green in May.

The club supplies edibles and marijuana bud at $7 per gram to anyone 
over the age of 25 who can prove a medical need.

Laurio says Herbal Green doesn't require customers have a Health 
Canada licence to use marijuana for medical reasons, because the 
standards to obtain such permission are too hard to meet.

"Penticton's the worst, because the medical professionals here won't 
have anything to do with you," he said.

Instead, the club typically accepts customers on the basis of their 
prescriptions for pharmaceutical drugs for conditions that may be 
helped by marijuana, such as anxiety or arthritis. Approval is done 
on a case-by-case basis and client information is kept on file to 
prove each customer's need.

"If you're over 40, it's quite likely you have something wrong with 
you that requires marijuana," said Laurio, who was a Penticton 
mayoral candidate in 2011 and 2014.

For security reasons, he wouldn't disclose where he obtains his 
product, but confirmed it comes from licensed suppliers in southern B.C.

Laurio estimates the club, which operates out of his Rush In and 
Finnish Cafe at 248 Westminster Avenue, now has nearly 500 customers, 
and continues to add them at a rate of 20 per week.

"Most of them are over 40, 50, 60, 70. Some of them come in with 
their walkers, their wheelchairs. It's phenomenal," he said.

Laurio, who uses marijuana for relief from the symptoms of 
osteoarthritis, also claims the club received tacit permission from 
the RCMP before opening.

"Basically, they're willing to look the other way as long as we keep 
a clean operation," he said.

"They see the need for it, too. And it helps them, too, because some 
of the most vulnerable customers who have to be on the street level 
(to get marijuana), they now come here."

Penticton RCMP spokesman Cpl. Don Wrigglesworth declined to comment 
specifically on Herbal Green.

"There is no compassion club in Penticton that we're aware of," he said.

Nor has the City of Penticton licensed such an operation, according 
to spokeswoman Simone Blais.

Laurio acknowledged the issue of compassion clubs, on which the City 
of Vancouver is leading the way by moving to legitimize them, is 
"really touchy." He's optimistic, however, that Prime Minister Justin 
Trudeau will make good on his pledge to legalize marijuana.

"I'm waiting for it. I'm planning for legalization, because then I 
can have a legal store, and I don't have to keep index cards, I don't 
have to keep track of my customers, I just have to make sure they're 
over whatever age limit," said Laurio. "It's simpler."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom