Pubdate: Sun, 17 Jan 2016
Source: Toronto Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 Canoe Limited Partnership
Authors: Jenny Yuen
Page: 4


While 'technically' illegal, pot dispensaries are springing up all
over Toronto

They line up to see God at this dimly-lit emporium in the Church and
Wellesley area - then they go home and smoke it.

Before opening at 11 a.m., Toronto Dispensary operations manager
Marina gingerly reaches into a safe and pulls out more than a dozen
glass canisters filled with different types of green bud, mainly
imported from British Columbia.

Each jar contains different strains of marijuana with funky names - LA
Chocolate, Chemo, Purple Paralysis and, of course, the earthy-smelling
God - and she places them in glass cabinets that her customers can
peruse before purchasing.The price for a gram is about $10 - or $225
for an ounce.

But before you head down to pick up some ounces of God, you should
know the rules around dispensaries are hazy at best. While these
dispensaries are acting as a weed pharmacy, they're doing so
illegally, according to Health Canada, Toronto Police and the City of

Right now, only licensed producers authorized by Health Canada - just
15 in Ontario and 27 across the country - are allowed to sell pot
through the mail to those with verified prescriptions.

But that hasn't stopped almost 50 dispensaries from setting up shop in
Toronto over the last two years. And as the federal Liberals push
forward with their plan to legalize pot, those in the industry are
confident Toronto will continue to see more dispensaries opening up,
joining the ranks of Vancouver as a weed capital of Canada and
allowing quicker and easier access to pot for patients battling cancer
and other illnesses. Police say that while "technically" it's still
illegal, dispensaries fall into a grey area and will continue to do so
until the federal government legalizes all marijuana. "We don't have
the resources to walk up and down Yonge St. to see who's smoking a
joint," a police source told the Sun. "If we get calls for complaints,
we would investigate them and lay charges. But that's what happens
when we get into this grey area. We're not conducting those types of
proactive stings like we used to."

In Kensington Market alone, there are at least six dispensaries
selling medicinal marijuanawithin a 1 km radius.

Business is buzzing - much to a mix of delight and chagrin to
residents and business owners.

Alfonso Segovia of El Gordo Fine Foods in Kensington Market is
dismayed by how many of these storefronts have opened and worries how
it may affect his business.

"How many sick people are there that there needs to be this many
dispensaries?" he said. "You can walk down the street and you can
smell it. People have always smoked pot, but not to the extent you see
it now. For people who don't understand or use it, it's a problem,
especially if you have children."

Anna Kosior, whose mother battled breast cancer using medical
marijuana, thinks the opposite.

"Alcohol has been legal for a much longer time," she said.
"(Marijuana) has been extremely stigmatized. My mom was prescribed
topical treatments because she wasn't able to smoke and just seeing
the change of her being on chemo to her being on something more
natural, it was a beautiful transformation."

Currently, the City of Toronto maintains it doesn't have a role in
enforcing dispensaries and it's the police and federal government's

Councillor Joe Cressy, who heads the Toronto Drug Strategy
implementation panel, said he has asked the chief medical officer of
health to come back with a report in the coming months to address what
they can do in the meantime on the municipal level.

Vancouver implemented a bylaw in June to deal with its more than 100
dispensaries. Under Vancouver's new system, retail pot shops have to
pay an annual $30,000 licensing fee and must be at least 300 metres
from schools, community centres and other dispensaries or compassion
clubs. Many dispensaries in Toronto are using that as a guideline.

Meanwhile, the dispensaries are crying out for regulation.

"Technically, it's extremely easy for us to be charged," said Neev
Tapiero, director of the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis
Dispensaries. "Right now, there is very little legal difference
between someone selling out of their basement versus a dispensary. The
link is incomplete because Health Canada doesn't recognize marijuana
and I don't see Bill Blair making comments good or bad.

"I'm afraid we'll be sidelined."

- --------------------------------------------------------


Getting it, using it

Lisa Campbell, a 32-year-old medicinal marijuana patient, has used
dispensaries for two years to treat pain and nausea.

Here's what she had to say in a Q & A with the Sun:


"Mail order is a great way to get cannabis as well but going into the
store, seeing your medicine, being able to smell it - it's like going
to a farmers' market and being able to pick out your own fruit."


"Patients are able to get feedback about their cannabis use. They can
get tips on how to moderate their dose. It also builds community
locally as well because the patients give each other advice. There is
a lot of stigma against medical marijuana patients, so having a
dispensary creates the community of rapport."


"Most of the time, I'll go to my local dispensary in Kensington Market
because it's a five-minute walk. It's more convenient. Other times,
because the quality fluctuates between producers and dispensaries,
sometimes, there are mail-order recreational websites that have been
around for over 10 years that provide really good quality medicine you
can't get from Toronto. A lot of people have disabilities as well, so
there has to be a variety of options."


"People are still being targeted - dispensary owners, patients,
suppliers. People are still being charged for cannabis in Canada, even
though it may not seem like it. The longer we wait, the scarier it is
for everyone. And the City of Toronto needs to act. Our government has
been mute."
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