Pubdate: Wed, 31 Aug 2016
Source: Barrie Examiner (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016, Barrie Examiner
Authors: Bob Bruton & Cheryl Browne
Page: A1


Search Warrants Lead to Closure of Two City Marijuana Dispensaries

City police closed down two downtown Barrie marijuana dispensaries 
Tuesday morning after executing Controlled Drug and Substance Act 
warrants. No charges have been laid. But the street crime unit is 
investigating Sunrise Medicinal on Dunlop Street East and Med West on 
Dunlop Street West.

"At this point they are closed down because warrants were executed," 
Const. Nicole Rodgers said Tuesday afternoon.

"We're looking at anything from Criminal Code through to the 
Controlled Drug and Substances Act," she said of possible charges. 
"It depends on the situation. You're looking at possession or 
trafficking or any of the above."

Joe Bidinot, owner of Sunrise Medicinal, said the police raid on his 
store put a dozen people out of work and will directly affect 1,400 
clients his business has serviced in the less than six months it has been open.

"We're not criminals. For 20 years, we've had a passion for this 
plant and now they (the government) have realized it's actually safe 
and want to sell it, they're demonizing us," Bidinot said.

Under the new Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations, 
Health Canada will now only allow medical-marijuana patients to buy 
from one of 35 licensed producers.

"All products on our shelves came from (previously) licensed growers, 
licensed by Health Canada," Bidinot said.

However, he says those licences were doled out to about 5,000 growers 
prior to the rule changes to the Medical Marijuana Access Regulations 
in 2013. Barrie police have worked with the city and the Crown 
attorney's office on this matter. The investigation has resulted from 
unspecified community complaints.

Coun. Rose Romita, who represents the downtown, said the police and 
city are just doing their jobs.

"Medical marijuana must be produced and sold by licensed facilities. 
The law clearly states that 'dispensaries are illegal'," she said. 
"If you need medical marijuana you must purchase it through the legal process.

"I hope this sends a message to any other dispensaries that may be 
planning to open in Barrie." City police called the two outlets 
'illegal marijuana dispensaries' and said they are not a Health 
Canada-licensed producer or distributor, as defined in the Access to 
Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations.

Police also said these type of store-front operations pose a 
potential health risk, as the production of controlled substances is 
not regulated by Health Canada and/ or can originate from unknown sources.

Now that the government has narrowed down the field significantly - 
from 5,000 to 35 licensed growers - dispensers like Sunrise were cut 
out of the picture, Bidinot said.

"Health Canada says we're not allowed to buy from the 35 licensed 
growers. So we bought from growers who did have licences," he said.

Concerns that store-front dispensaries were getting their product 
from organized crime are unfounded, Bidinot said.

"It's an unfortunate statement. I haven't met anybody in the mafia. 
I'm not going to say the mafia doesn't grow, because I don't know. I 
don't know anything about the mafia," he said.

Bidinot said low-income patients don't want to buy from the 35 
licensed growers.

"They want them to buy hundreds of dollars worth of product at a time 
and then have it mailed to them. People don't want to buy that way. 
They want to see it, smell it, to know what they're buying," he said.

"They can't afford to spend $500 to buy cannabis from Health Canada. 
So they're shutting down the places where people do want to buy from."

Rodgers said she could not say if or when any charges could be laid.

"Processing a scene and a warrant can take hours, and conducting 
interviews and an investigation further before charges are determined 
can take hours as well," she said.

The two warrants were executed just after 11 a.m., Tuesday, Rodgers said.
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