Pubdate: Tue, 14 Mar 2017
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Greg Mercer
Page: A1


Five were warned they're at risk of being raided; one operator says he
can't let 'our patients' down

KITCHENER - Waterloo Regional Police say they've warned five illegal
marijuana dispensaries in the region they're at risk of being raided
if they continue to flout the laws around selling cannabis.

After getting visits from officers and written warnings, several of
the dispensaries have shut down. One that refused - Green Tree Medical
Dispensary - was busted Friday by police, who seized $26,800 in pot,
$5,400 in hash, edibles and $17,000 in cash.

Three women and a male employee were arrested in the raid and face
possession for the purpose of trafficking charges.

Police say they're continuing to investigate all the region's
dispensaries, and are watching them closely. But while the raid may
have put a scare into medical marijuana users, at least one other
local dispensary says it has no plans to close.

"We're still serving our patients. I can't let those people down,"
said Tyler Leatherland, who runs Kitchener's Organix Compassion club.

"We were visited and cautioned by the police, but they haven't asked
us to cease and desist yet. Without us, our patients don't have any
way to access their medicine. It's us or the street."

His dispensary serves about 700 people who have prescriptions for
medical marijuana to treat a range of things from cancer and anxiety
to depression and epilepsy, he said. He said the raid was concerning,
but wouldn't deter his dispensary.

"I'm a human being. If someone comes to me and is suffering and I can
help, I can't turn my back on those people," he said. "If we're told
to close, we will do so immediately. But right now, (the police)
haven't asked us to close, and I have some very sick people I must

He said his dispensary operates like a pharmacy. They verify all
prescriptions are legitimate, and won't sell to anyone without one, he

Green Tree, meanwhile, is part of a national chain of dispensaries.
Some speculated it drew police attention because it had looser polices
around requiring a prescription to get pot - reportedly allowing
customers up to 30 days after they bought their marijuana to find a

But Staff Sgt. Sloden Lackovic, superintendent of the drugs and
firearms branch, said the law is clear. There's only three legal ways
to get medical marijuana with a prescription: order it through the
mail from a licensed producer, get Health Canada approval to grow it
yourself or designate a registered, third-party producer to grow it
for you.

That means all compassion clubs, or dispensaries, are operating
outside the law even if their members have legitimate doctor's

"Anyone acting outside of that framework may be investigated and
subject to charges," Staff Sgt. Lackovic said.

"Storefronts selling marijuana are not authorized to sell cannabis for
medical or any other purpose. These operations are illegally supplied
and provide products that are unregulated and may be unsafe."

Leatherland argues his club's pot is actually safer than the stuff
being grown by federally licensed medical marijuana producers.

He points to the recent discovery that a banned pesticide was found
inside pot sold by a Toronto-based medical marijuana company.

His compassion club buys its marijuana from people who have a licence
to grow marijuana for personal use but sell their surplus pot, he
said. He said his dispensary tests their pot regularly and trusts the
people growing it.

The federal government says it intends to introduce legislation to
legalize marijuana in the coming months. But until that happens,
there's widespread confusion among the public around what's legal and
what isn't, Leatherland said.

"It's very frustrating, because it leaves everyone in a state of
uncertainty," he said.

Medicinal marijuana clinics meanwhile, like the Canadian Cannabis
Clinic on Kitchener's Glasgow Street, are legal and aren't part of the
police investigation. They write prescriptions for marijuana, but they
don't dispense pot.

Almost a quarter of the people who come to the clinic looking for a
prescription won't get one, said Ronan Levy, an executive director
with Canadian Cannabis Clinics.

The Kitchener clinic is part of a national chain of clinics that have
issued almost 18,000 prescriptions since 2014. The clinic says it
encourages its patients to order their pot through a licensed producer
instead of walk-in dispensaries, which are supplied by so-called "grey
market" or black market producers.

Dispensaries may be convenient, but they can't really control their
pot's potency or safety, Levy argued. Unlike a dispensary, a clinic
has trained professionals who can tailor a prescription to specific
medical conditions, he added.

"There's clearly a market demand for what dispensaries are doing, it's
just they're pushing the envelop for what's legal," Levy said.

"We discourage our patients from going through dispensaries, because
you don't have any legal protection, and you don't know where the
cannabis is coming from."
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