Pubdate: Thu, 25 Jan 2018
Source: Regina Leader-Post (CN SN)
Copyright: 2018 The Leader-Post Ltd.
Author: Arthur White-Crummey
Page: A1


Police chief warns shop owners they could be raided at any time

Regina's police chief is warning that officers could move against
marijuana dispensaries at any moment, potentially charging operators
and confiscating their weed.

It's Evan Bray's most immediate threat yet against Regina's 19 or so
pot shops. He said the police will soon send official warnings to
owners - but that's just "a courtesy." The law is "black and white,"
he said Wednesday, and dispensaries are already breaking it.

"Enforcement ultimately could happen at any time," he told reporters
gathered at the police station. "We are not going to be giving a grace

He said his investigators are "very good" at laying charges and
seizing product.

Each situation will be different, he cautioned, but dispensaries that
don't comply with his warnings could face "all of that and more."

When asked why he's choosing to act now - just months before
legalization - Bray said that police have long worked to "communicate"
their expectations to dispensaries. "What we were told was going to be
happening in the store isn't what's happening in the store," he noted.

He also based the timing on comments by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,
who has indicated support for enforcement before Ottawa changes the
law. Trudeau was already making comments to that effect in 2016, however.

The chief did not explicitly say that customers without medical
prescriptions would be safe. Possession is still illegal for a few
more months. But he stressed that recreational users would not be the
primary targets of any upcoming enforcement campaign.

"Our plan isn't to go into a dispensary and arrest everybody that we
find in there," he said. "Our focus is on the dispensary, the owners
and the operators."

He did not say what would happen to employees. Police spokesperson
Elizabeth Popowich later indicated that if the chief had intended to
include them in the targeted group "he would have said so."

Bray reiterated that there is no legal way to sell marijuana through a
storefront, even to patients with a prescription. He said medical
users can easily access cannabis through a licensed mail-order service.

Dispensary owners have called that point into question, pointing to
alleged barriers for low income people. Pat Warnecke, owner of Best
Buds Society, says that shutting him down will push his clients back
to the black market.

But Bray seemed to draw no distinction between storefront operators
and street dealers. Both, he stressed, operate outside of the law.
"We're not sending them out of the daylight and into the darkness,"
Bray said.

The chief added that his education campaign is already working. He's
heard from two or three dispensaries who have chosen to comply with
his warnings. He said his goal is to shut them all down without any
enforcement action.

Warnecke still says he will not make that easy. Even after Bray's
renewed warning, Best Buds has no plans to close even if police show
up at his door. "Our reaction at that point would be to stand fast,"
he said Wednesday afternoon.

Bray hinted that owners like Warnecke may be risking their chance of
getting licences under the province's legalization plan. Bray pointed
to the "good character" provision announced by the government. If it
were up to him, he said, ignoring police warnings wouldn't fit the
bill. "If you're an owner of a dispensary who wants to own that
dispensary after it's legalized, I would assume you're going to
comply," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Matt