Pubdate: Wed, 04 Nov 2015
Source: Victoria News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2015 Black Press
Author: Pamela Roth


Third dispensary robbed in three months

Tony Musfelt started shaking when he received a phone call from police
last week, informing him that the medical marijuana dispensary he
manages on Cook Street had been robbed.

"It took me half an hour to calm down before I could even go in," said
Musfelt. "My anxiety was through the roof."

It was around 8:35 p.m. on Oct. 27 when police were called to the
Ocean Grown Medical Dispensary in the 1700 block of Cook Street after
two masked men brandishing firearms stormed the business. Nobody was
injured, but the two employees working in the store were tied up by
the thieves, who fled the scene once police arrived.

The business can't talk about specific details about the crime, but
said employees working that night were shaken by what they
experienced. Measures are now being taken to increase security.

In the last three months, there have been three armed robberies at
medical marijuana stores in Victoria. Police are investigating whether
there is any connection. If the trend continues, police may look at
cracking down on the illegal businesses operating throughout the city.

"The police will look at trends in the future and if the trends
continue, then maybe we will go down the road with enforcement," said
Victoria police Const. Matt Rutherford. "The problem is it's such a
hot political issue."

Medical marijuana dispensaries have been popping up throughout B.C.,
prompting communities to call for local authorities to regulate them.

Last month, Esquimalt council voted to deny all applications for
business licenses pertaining to dispensaries in the township following
an earlier inquiry from someone wanting to establish a business there.

Officials with the town canvased other municipalities in the region,
noting most have taken the position that the activity is illegal,
therefore business licences will not be issued and anyone commencing
operations will be forced to shut down.

The only exception in the region is the City of Victoria, which
currently has approximately 20 medical marijuana dispensaries. The
city is now trying to set up a process to regulate the industry so it
won't be a free-for-all.

When it comes to policing, officers in Victoria have had ongoing
conversations with dispensary operators, reminding them that there is
always a risk the businesses could be enforced.

"If we went in and tried to shut these places down, is this going to
result in criminal charges? That's not clear. That can change any
minute...It really is a complex issue where people are operating in a
grey area," said Victoria police spokesperson Bowen Osoko. "Our
resources are only so big and we apply those resources based on the
public interest."

According to Dieter MacPherson, executive director of the Victoria
Cannabis Buyers Club, one of the major risks for medical marijuana
dispensaries is that they are an all-cash business.

The city licencing dispensaries will go a long way towards allowing
the businesses to access traditional services, such as banking, he
added, and if the federal government follows through with legalizing
marijuana it will reduce the market value over time, removing the
temptation for thieves.

"This is not unique to the City of Victoria. Obviously we're dealing
with a high value product and an all-cash business so there will
always be a concern that they are targeted," said MacPherson. "Our
hope is businesses will adopt best practices for security and the city
in its licencing program will include security standards that should
be applied across the industry."

Last month, a man armed with a weapon entered the Weeds Social Club in
the 1600 block of Douglas Street and made off with an undisclosed
amount of cash and drugs. In late July, a man armed with a gun and
knife stole cash and drugs from Farmacy, located at 3055 Scott St.

Anyone with information is asked to call 250-995-7654.
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