Pubdate: Tue, 08 Dec 2015
Source: Nanaimo News Bulletin (CN BC)
Copyright: 2015, BC Newspaper Group
Author: Tamara Cunningham


A steady stream of customers returned to Trees Dispensary Nanaimo on 
Friday, just three days after police raided the Bowen Road pot shop.

The dispensary is back in business, although not without challenges.

The store is short-staffed with the arrest of three employees, the 
phone wasn't working and credit cards were being run up manually 
without a point-of-sale machine. Even the display cases were looking 
a little empty.

Where there used to be about five to six pounds (two and a half 
kilograms) of bud, there's now only one or two, says store manager 
Anita Roy - and that's only thanks to restocking efforts by the Trees 
chain, whose executives are determined to keep the Nanaimo store open.

There's also the threat of arrest for employees and patrons, but the 
store has still been busy, according to Roy, who says people are stocking up.

"A lady picked up 15 caramel packs," she said.

Police raided Trees Dispensary, Phoenix Pain Management Society and 
Nature's Source Society Dec. 1, close to three weeks after warning 11 
medical marijuana dispensaries to stop selling marijuana or face 
potential enforcement.

Dispensaries said everything was seized, including product and cash, 
and 16 people were arrested and charged. All vowed to re-open and 
there are plans to continue to press local government for regulation.

Trees Dispensary has also been rolling out changes. Roy says Trees 
now conducts random testing of its products for dosage content and 
chemical residue. The dispensary also has customers Skype with a 
naturopath professional in store to get a letter of assessment.

The dispensary used to ask patients to self-declare a medical 
condition because they wouldn't get doctor's referrals.

Technically people could falsely claim to have a medical condition, 
but Roy said the trust is the same as in a doctor's office.

"There is no way a doctor can verify if you have pain," she said, 
adding people don't go to "such elaborate lies" to get a bit of pot. 
"They can buy pot without telling those lies. They can go on the street."

But Trees also recognized self-declaration wasn't enough, she said, 
and as of Oct. 1, the store has clients Skype with the naturopathic 
firm Naturosafe Consulting.

"We wanted to take a step further to basically document in a medical 
fashion their ailments and get a recommendation from a professional," she said.

Patients going to Trees on Friday were looking for product to help 
with back pain, depression and anxiety. Those who agreed to talk to 
the News Bulletin said they didn't have a prescription.

Mark Merrick said he hasn't tried to get a doctor's prescription and 
doesn't believe he'd qualify for a medical licence to get marijuana, 
but the people at Trees know what they are talking about and help. 
He's battled anxiety for a long time and marijuana helps him relax. 
Jacques Rivard needs medical marijuana for his back and he doesn't 
like going out on the streets to find it.

"Having this, I don't see the harm in it at all," he said, adding the 
police raid was nonsense.

"Why not spend more of their time going after the real crimes out there?"

Another patient, who asked not to be named, self-declared depression 
at Trees Dispensary Nanaimo knowing the condition still technically 
exists even if he's not currently battling it and uses marijuana more 
for creative inspiration, personal reflection and meditation. He 
should have the right to choose for himself whether marijuana is 
necessary for him, he said.

Trees Dispensary plans to remain open even if it faces future arrests.

It's a scary possibility for Roy, who says she's never been in 
handcuffs before. But she calls it a moral and ethical issue and 
plans to take a stand. Legalization could take "years and years" and 
there are patients who have saved their lives with medical marijuana, 
according to Roy.

"Cancer patients who have saved their lives in three months, in six 
months, we should let them die until this becomes legal? I don't think so."

She said if there are arrests, more employees will come to take their 
place in a non-violent, "Gandhian" strategy.

"We will line up like lemmings," said Roy. "I know we are not Che 
Guevara, we're not the Russian Revolution and we're not the French 
peasants. It's not that glamorous, but still some of the principles 
apply. We want to change and the only way to do it is to push the envelope."
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