Pubdate: Fri, 04 Mar 2016
Source: Coast Reporter (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Coast Reporter
Author: Christine Wood


There are now two medical marijuana dispensary storefronts in Sechelt
that are selling cannabis products to the public - and a third set to
start selling product this month - despite the fact RCMP say it's illegal.

WeeMedical Dispensary Society, a dispensary chain started in Nanaimo,
set up shop on the corner of Teredo Street and Inlet Avenue and opened
its doors to the public on Feb. 22.

Meanwhile, Weeds Glass and Gifts has been open for more than a year on
Wharf Avenue and has been operating as a dispensary for a little over
six months, according to manager Robin Kehler.

And now, the owner of 420 Hemp Shop on Cowrie Street is rearranging
his store to offer a dispensary in the back, while still selling hemp
products and pot paraphernalia in the front. Owner Danny Owsnett hopes
to open the dispensary by the middle of March.

WeeMedical and Weeds Glass and Gifts both sell various strains of
marijuana, as well as concentrates and edibles. Weeds also sells oils,
creams, salves, tinctures and pot in pill form. 420 Hemp Shop plans to
sell several strains of marijuana as well as tinctures, oils and
possibly gum from the back of its store.

Sunshine Coast RCMP Const. Harrison Mohr said the detachment takes a
"zero-tolerance approach to dispensaries," as selling cannabis
products from storefronts remains illegal.

"There is still no legal mechanism in Canada which allows for
'medicinal marijuana dispensaries' or 'compassion clubs' to sell
marijuana to the public, regardless of whether or not the purchasing
individuals have licences to possess marijuana or whether or not the
vendor has a licence to produce marijuana," Mohr said this week,
noting the RCMP have already raided one dispensary being operated out
of a home in Selma Park - S&M Sweet Shoppe.

When asked why the RCMP's zero-tolerance approach hasn't led to the
closure of Weeds Glass and Gifts, Mohr said, "I can't comment on why
any specific dispensary has been allowed to remain open thus far;
however, Sunshine Coast RCMP will continue to monitor the local
dispensaries and prioritize enforcement action as appropriate."

Kehler said he thinks the RCMP have left Weeds Glass and Gifts alone
so far because he's being strict about only selling to people with a
medical prescription for cannabis. He said 14 local doctors are now
prescribing to his store.

"They have let me for the last year keep my doors open because I am
really trying to work within the confines of the law, but as far as
the police are concerned, it's still illegal until the feds make the
change, and we all know the change is coming," Kehler said.

Owner of WeeMedical in Sechelt, Keir MacPherson, said he also sells
only to people with prescriptions or cards from other dispensaries
that would have required them to prove their need with a

"I try to make it as easy as possible and yet still follow what I need
to follow for them to become a member here," MacPherson said.

He recently moved to the Coast with his wife and four young children
and said he decided to open up WeeMedical because there was demand for
it from customers who used the chain elsewhere.

"When our clientele began asking about it, we did some research. I
love the community. The demand seemed to be here for it and the want,
so I popped her open," MacPherson said.

He said WeeMedical is expanding and opening stores throughout B.C.
WeeMedical even plans to open a store in Gibsons in the future.

MacPherson doesn't have a business licence for his storefront (neither
did Weeds Glass and Gifts at press time) but he says it's not
necessary because WeeMedical operates as a non-profit society. He said
any money made by the operation goes to pay the three staff members
employed in Sechelt first, and then proceeds go to the charity Splash
Water For Life - a machine that makes water from air, which is placed
in communities needing access to safe, clean drinking water.

MacPherson admits what he's doing is illegal under current federal
laws, but said he wasn't willing to wait for those laws to change.

"If you've noticed, already Shoppers Drug Mart has [been exploring the
possibility of selling medicinal marijuana]. If we wait, we're out.
It's just that easy, it's that simple. You have to break ground, you
have to risk a little bit, you have to be a little bit on the
forefront as a small guy if you're going to make your mark - because
if you don't, once it goes black and white, big pharma and big tobacco
and everybody else will get it," MacPherson said.

Asked why the District of Sechelt was allowing businesses to set up
shop that are still illegal, acting Sechelt mayor Alice Lutes said:
"We have no avenue to take because it's federal laws - the selling of
marijuana - so that means we can't enforce those laws. The only laws
we can enforce are our own bylaws."

Lutes said the District of Sechelt doesn't currently offer dispensary
business licences, but the district has been working with Weeds Glass
and Gifts for several months to issue a business licence for the glass
and gifts side of its operation.

Once business licences are issued, even for part of the operation, the
district has some mechanism to enforce rules through that business
licence, which could result in a store closure if rules weren't being

Lutes said the only real way to get a dispensary without a business
licence shut down is via the RCMP, which enforces federal laws,
although she said the RCMP wouldn't likely act without complaints
being lodged by the public.

To date, Lutes said, the District of Sechelt has not, to her
knowledge, lodged any complaints about dispensaries with the Sunshine
Coast RCMP.

She admitted the entire issue is complicated and that council would be
requesting a report from staff on the dispensaries in Sechelt later
this month.

"A report on where everybody's at as far as business licence
compliance, building inspections, all those things that we do have any
control over - we'll ask for a report so then we can take action if
that's appropriate once the report is given to us," Lutes said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt