Pubdate: Tue, 10 Jan 2017
Source: Chronicle Herald (CN NS)
Copyright: 2017 The Halifax Herald Limited
Author: Jordan Parker


Auntie's Halifax marijuana dispensary is among a nation full of shops
that have begun selling recreationally, despite federal laws that
promise prosecution.

Raids have been conducted by police in Hamilton, Montreal and Toronto
over the past year, including those of recreational marijuana shops
owned by company Cannabis Culture.

"The federal government has been clear that until new legislation is
introduced, the current laws remain and must be followed," wrote Sarah
Gillis, a spokeswoman for the provincial Department of Health & Wellness.

"Nova Scotia will ensure that the health and safety of all Canadians,
especially children and youth, remains a top priority."

The Barrington Street shop Auntie's Health and Wellness was served an
eviction notice last week. The shop's owner, Shirley Martineau, 66,
was recently arrested along with three others in the shop and charged
with marijuana trafficking.

She had been openly selling marijuana to those 19 and over, regardless
of whether or not they had a prescription. In a raid Dec. 30, police
seized her inventory, but volunteers began working in the shop again a
few days later. Then they received an eviction notice.

"I just found out about it half an hour ago. I don't know what's going
on," said Martineau Friday afternoon.

She had pneumonia at the time of her interview. "The stress is not
helping at all."

Gillis said cannabis use "presents unique and potentially long-term
risks to the developing brain of adolescents and young adults."

"Nova Scotia is considering a minimum age of at least 19 as a balance
between protecting young people and decreasing illegal activities
related to cannabis," she wrote.

One person who wasn't a bit surprised by the shutdown of Auntie's was
Trauma Healing Centers president Kyle Atkinson.

"It was a very bold statement to announce publicly (she would sell to
those without prescriptions) and it is currently considered an illegal
act," he wrote in an email to the Chronicle Herald.

Martineau has been hailed as a trailblazer in the industry by national
activist Jodie Emery, but Atkinson doesn't share that opinion.

"There needs to be a very clear distinction between what is medical
cannabis and what is recreational marijuana and how you access those
products," he wrote.

"The reality is, recreational marijuana is not legal yet and selling
it to the general public would be considered trafficking and illegal."

He said Auntie's likely got raided while other dispensaries didn't
because her December announcement that she would sell to recreational
marijuana users as well as those with prescriptions was "a red flag."

"(It) essentially means that she is planning to sell recreationally,
which is currently illegal," Atkinson said.

While the current directive from Canadian Prime Minister Justin
Trudeau is to prosecute anyone selling marijuana who isn't a Health
Canada-approved licensed producer selling medicinal marijuana, police
in Halifax have not given a definitive answer on how they would deal
with Auntie's, should it reopen.

"We will assess the situation and act accordingly," wrote Const.
Dianne Penfound in an email to the Chronicle Herald.

"Given that we're in the midst of a change in the regulatory
environment on marijuana, we are monitoring the situation and will
look at each marijuana storefront on its own merits," she wrote.

Trudeau stated in December that police must uphold the law until the
regulations are changed.

"As it stands, the only legal way to access medical cannabis in Canada
is with a medical document signed by a physician and via a Health
Canada-approved licensed producer, and there is currently no
recreational framework in place," wrote Atkinson.

"The extensive testing required by Health Canada-approved licensed
producers ensures the quality, composition and safety of the medicine
patients are accessing.

"The same cannot be said for dispensaries."
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