Pubdate: Sat, 20 Aug 2016
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Matthew Van Dongen
Page: A3


Draft regulations consider freelance dispensaries illegal

It turns out police have already raided at least two Hamilton
storefront medical marijuana sellers this year.

The raids raise questions about the fate of all self-styled
dispensaries in the city - particularly since newly released draft
regulations for medical marijuana now specifically label freelance
storefront sellers as illegal.

The owner of a King Street East medical marijuana dispensary, Bright
Moments, was the first to publicize an apparent local police raid in
July. Luke Williams argued at the time the shop catered to "800
patients who are sick, who have prescriptions, who need help." He said
he didn't understand why police would crack down in the midst of a
federal effort to rewrite marijuana regulations.

The police service did not provide any information about that incident
or answer Spectator questions about other possible raids until now,
nearly a month later.

A media release posted Friday shows Hamilton police actually first
raided a Main Street East dispensary called Escarpment Wellness June
3. That was about a week after high-profile raids in Toronto.

Between the two Hamilton raids, police seized an estimated $175,000 in
marijuana and related "edibles," such as drug-infused sodas, cookies
and peanut butter.

The storefront sale of medical marijuana is illegal, but shops
purporting to sell exclusively to patients with prescriptions started
popping up across Canada after the courts struck down federal rules as

New draft regulations still appear to consider such freelance
dispensaries illegal. Details on a broader effort to legalize and
regulate pot use are expected next year.

Regardless, storefront pot dispensaries are illegal now, said
Hamilton's police release.

Police said the owner of the Main Street East dispensary, Hector
Galbraith, 30, and Edward Sandoval, 27, were charged with possession
for the purposes of trafficking.

Galbraith said Friday he isn't ready to talk about the raid or its

But Williams said his lawyers have advised him to close Bright
Moments. Williams, who said he plans to plead not guilty to his
charges, said he is "disgusted" by the proposed new regulations, which
he argued cater only to large-scale producers licensed to date by
Health Canada.

"It's a slap in the face to all the little guys," he said. "Don't be
surprised if we end up in front of the Supreme Court again (over the

Not all local dispensaries have been raided yet.

Tamara Hirsh, who recently opened a dispensary on James Street North,
said she's had "no interaction" with police so far. "But it's always a
worry. It's terrible for us, for patients," she said.
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MAP posted-by: Matt