Pubdate: Fri, 18 Nov 2016
Source: Regina Leader-Post (CN SN)
Copyright: 2016 The Leader-Post Ltd.
Author: Brian Fitzpatrick
Page: A3


The mayor of Whitewood has raised concerns about practices at a
marijuana dispensary that had long operated in the town, and called on
the federal government to remove the grey areas that exist around the
sale of the drug for medical purposes.

Martin Medical Services, owned by Jerry Martin, 45, was raided last
Tuesday, with Broadview RCMP seizing a quantity of marijuana as well
as cash, cellphones, computers and three vehicles.

Martin's home was raided, as well.

Martin is facing criminal charges for operation of an unlawful
marijuana dispensary, including trafficking and possession of
marijuana and cannabis resin, possession of the proceeds of crime,
trafficking in the proceeds of crime and laundering the proceeds of

With the dispensary that has divided his town now closed, Whitewood
Mayor Doug Armstrong said he's tired of the council having to clean up
a federally created mess over the supply of the drug. Although
over-the-counter dispensaries like Martin's are illegal, his business
had been allowed to operate for a number of years.

"The federal government's got to step up and either make this legal or
illegal," Armstrong said. "They've put us in a very bad situation. We
shouldn't be dealing with this as a council."

Armstrong said the number of people arriving at the business from all
over had concerned locals.

"You see licence plates from B.C., Alberta, Manitoba," he said of the
dispensary's customers.

Whitewood has found itself at the centre of a bitterly disputed
situation. Only 36 legal dispensaries can produce and sell cannabis
products nationwide, selling by secure mail only to customers with a
valid medical prescription.

Martin's business is not among the 36 approved by Health Canada; in
Saskatchewan, only two cleared providers are in operation.

With the federal government promising to introduce a bill on the
legalization of recreational marijuana by the spring of 2017, the
effects for businesses are obvious, although there is no certainty on
what form the legislation might take, and who might be allowed to sell.

Martin Medical Services and other dispensaries were warned last year
by Health Canada that they wouldn't be allowed to continue as they
were. That was as far as things had gone, until last Tuesday.

"I'm standing in an empty house," Martin said this week. "They took
everything I owned. They left me with 11 cents on the floor."

"They're just humiliating me, making me look like a bad man when all
I've done is bring a good name to cannabis, show that dispensaries can
be a great asset to a community," he added.

Craig Jones, executive director of the cannabis law reform lobbying
group NORML Canada, feels conflict and finger pointing are inevitable
in a market seemingly on the verge of an explosion.

"This is almost to be an expected natural consequence of the
government's promise to legalize later," he said. "The entrepreneurs
are moving into what appears to be a legislative vacuum and basically
daring the authorities to shut them down."

Jones said the uneven policing of dispensaries across the country was
simply authorities picking and choosing their battles.

"Police agencies are priority-setting agencies, just like any other
branch of government," he said. "(But) one citizen calls, it makes it
to the paper, then suddenly the political bosses are all over them and
they have to appear to be doing something."

Martin - who had two BMWs and a Chevy Tahoe truck seized - claimed he
has 998 regular customers, although the town's population is just
1,255. On a Go Fund Me page which has been set up to pay for his legal
fees, he refers to himself as "The King of Compassion."

Donations made by his not-for-profit operation - most recently, he
said, $11,000 to the town rodeo - have been welcomed by some in
Whitewood, but the mayor said if Martin is convicted, moneys he
donated to town-owned projects may need to be returned.

Martin feels the mayor has it in for him "big time."

"I don't know where the money laundering (charge) is coming from," he
said. "If anything, I laundered all the money into the community."

Martin is next scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 23.
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