Pubdate: Tue, 01 Aug 2017
Source: Victoria Standard, The (CN NS)
Copyright: 2017 The Victoria Standard
Author: Carolyn Barber
Page: A1


Victoria County's first and only medical marijuana dispensary opened
in June. It is listed with the Nova Scotia Registry of Joint Stocks
and has a CRA business number, a bank account and 25 clients. The RCMP
are well aware of it. However, dispensaries are illegal in Canada. So
how does it still exist? The Standard's Carolyn Barber explores the
making og a gray area where some choose to roll the dice.


Our story about the medical marijuana (cannabis) dispensary that
opened in June in Bay St. Lawrence began as a typical business
profile. On July 16, The Standard's Carolyn Barber interviewed sole
proprietor and operator Kevin Mackinnon, his wife Amy, and daughter
Danielle at their dispensary located on Buchanan Lane in the northern
Cape Breton village. Some basic background research on medical
marijuana dispensaries generated further questions. That's when it
became more than a profile.


The perception that medical marijuana dispensaries operate in a "gray
area" starts with a misleading path towards legitimacy beginning with
the registration of a business name. With few exceptions, all
businesses in Nova Scotia are required to register with the Registry
of Joint Stocks. The proprietor then receives a Joint Stocks number.
Though, as a representative from the service confirmed, the N.S.
Registry of Joint Stocks is for business name registration only. The
public can freely search the database of registered Nova Scotia
businesses at:

The Mackinnons also secured a business account with the Canada Revenue
Agency (CRA) for their dispensary, providing them with an HST number
and payroll account. In an email to The Standard, the CRA stated,
"There is no legislation governing the use of or which stipulates what
information is required to be provided in order to obtain a Business
Number (BN)." Businesses, both legal and illegal, need to pay taxes.

The family did hit one bureaucratic snag. No bank or credit union in
Nova Scotia would open a business account for them. This was easily
overcome by opening an account with an Ontario bank.

By June, with a Joint Stocks Number, CRA business account, and an
out-of-province bank account in hand, the Mackinnons opened Victoria
County's first and only medical marijuanadispensary registered as Nova
Budds Victoria County Medical Marijuana Dispensary. The dispensary,
located in a renovated building on their property is a franchise of
Nova Budds Dispensary Incorporated (registered as a Limited Company in
Hammonds Plains, N.S. according to a Join Stocks search). A Facebook
page ("Nova Budds Mellow Mountain") and a business sign in plain sight
at the corner of Buchanan Lane and Bay St. Lawrence Rd were launched
to signal the company's existence. However, one last issue remained.
Medical marijuana dispensaries are illegal in Canada.

At the time of the interview, Amy Mackinnon's excitement about
launching the business was mitigated by the knowledge that medical
marijuana dispensaries are against Canadian law despite the federal
government's intention to legalize recreational use of the drug by
next July. Amy added that since their June opening, RCMP vehicles have
driven past their company sign, but she had yet to receive any
inquiries from the local RCMP detachment.

"It would be nice to hear from them and tell us what their feelings
are about the business," said Mackinnon.

The Standard reached out to RCMP District Commander Darren Waidson for
comment but Waidson was away from the detachment during much of July.
In a short phone conversation just prior to press time, Waidson
indicated a formal response would be forthcoming.

The Mackinnons stressed during the interview that they followed all 
necessary guidelines provided by Nova Budds Incorporated: they dispensed 
only to those with a valid doctor's prescription accompanied by a 
medical marijuana users licence and photo ID; no one under the age of 19 
was allowed into the building that houses the dispensary; visitors aged 
19 and over could sit in the lobby of the building but could not enter 
the room where the cannabis is dispensed; the dispensary was well over 
the 600 metres from facilities with children; clients also sign a 
contract agreeing to, among other things, not resell or traffic their 
prescriptions, and not open prescriptions until they reach a private 

Kevin, a licenced medical marijuana patient, is also licenced to grow
up to 40 plants for personal use. He stated he stopped growing plants
over concerns that the cannabis he grew would in some way contaminate
the product in the dispensary.


The Nova Budds Mellow Mountain Facebook page disappeared on July 30, a
day following widespread news of the Cape Breton Regional Police raid
on the Nova Budds medicinal marijuana dispensary in Howie Centre, N.S.
At press time, The Standard was uncertain whether the dispensary is
still in operation. Phone calls, emails, and a Facebook message to Amy
Mackinnon have gone unanswered.

According to the Cape Breton Regional Police Service press release,
officers found "shatter" and other Thc-containing products including
foods and oils. THC is the acronym for tetrahydrocannabinol, the
substance in cannabis that produces a high. Shatter is an
amber-coloured marijuana derivative whose THC level can reach 80-90%
(Health Canada). The police press release closely echoed the federal
Department of Justice's concrete statement about medical marijuana

"Storefront operations selling cannabis, commonly known as
"dispensaries" and "compassion clubs" are not licenced by Health
Canada under the current law and are illegal. They are supplied by
illegal growers and sell untested, unregulated products that may be
unsafe and of particular risk to children." 

The press release also stated the legal cannabis supply chain will not
change when federal legalization begins in July 2018.

"When Marihuana [sic] is legalized in Canada a person will have to
apply to Health Canada to grow marihuana [sic] for their own use for
medical purpose or if a person wants to be a licenced provider it will
be in a secure sanitary place and it will be still be illegal for an
individual to advertise cannabis or set up a storefront or dispensary
under the Access to Cannabis For Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR)."

According to the Department of Justice website, "possessing and
selling cannabis for non-medical purposes is still illegal everywhere
in Canada".

The Mackinnons claimed that the product they dispensed was inspected
and tested by Health Canada. To confirm this claim, The Standard
reached out by phone to Nova Budds wholesaler Mark Sobey. When he
refused to reveal the source of Nova Budds cannabis products, we
reached out to two Health Canada Licenced producers in Atlantic Canada
to better understand the legal supply chain of cannabis.

According to Edwin Jewell of Organi-gram (New Brunswick) and Breagh
Fraser of Canada's Island Garden (PEI), licenced producers are not
allowed to sell to dispensary wholesalers. They are only allowed to
sell directly to medical marijuana patients via direct mail and to
other Health Canada licenced producers.

Fraser also stated that licenced producers provide legal documents to
support patients' purchases and to ensure they can claim the purchase
as a medical expense.

"All patients who purchase from a licenced producer receive their
prescription bottle with all their prescription information and a
receipt which is an 87-B form. It's a legal document that dispensaries
do not provide, nor can you claim a dispensary purchase because they
don't provide receipts. You cannot claim it on your taxes. Through us,
it is a medical expense so you can claim it on your taxes."

Sobey also claimed there were other licenced producers beyond the 52
listed on Health Canada's website.

Sindy Souffront of the Communications and Public Affairs Branch of
Health Canada provided this statement in response to Sobey's claim:

"Health Canada only conducts inspections of the 52 licenced producers
of cannabis on our website. The only legal commercial source of safe,
quality-controlled cannabis for medical purposes in Canada is through
purchase directly from one of the 52 producers licenced by Health
Canada, which currently serve more than 170,000 Canadians. These
licenced producers are required to adhere to strict production
practices and the results are verified during Health Canada
inspections. Product that fails to meet strict standards is not
released for sale.

Obtaining cannabis from any other source remains illegal and current 
laws apply until such time that the proposed Cannabis Act receives Royal 
Assent and comes into force. This includes storefronts selling cannabis, 
commonly known as "dispensaries" and online sellers.

Health Canada's position on the risks of obtaining cannabis from 
dispensaries has been consistent: these operations are illegally 
supplied, and provide products that are untested, unregulated and that 
may be unsafe. The Government of Canada supports law enforcement actions 
to address illegal storefront or online distribution and sale of 
cannabis in Canada."

According to Ottawa, laws surrounding use, production, sale and the
dispensing of cannabis products are not gray at all. They are as clear
as day.
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