Pubdate: Fri, 02 Mar 2018
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2018 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Jonny Wakefield
Page: A3



Police are "picking and choosing " when it comes to marijuana
enforcement, says a Whyte Avenue medical cannabis dispensary owner
charged after a bust last month.

The Edmonton Drug and Gang Enforcement Section (EDGE) executed search
warrants Feb. 2 at two commercial addresses and a residence, turning
up cannabis products with a combined street value estimated by police
at $150,000.

Paul Olson, owner of Whyte Cross dispensary, one of the businesses
raided Feb. 2, said it was "a little bit of a surprise" when police
entered his store and seized his products.

The busts came less than two months after a raid on another
dispensary, MediJoint, on 109 Street.

"After (MediJoint) were raided, I figured something was going on,"
said Olson.

"Since then, I think the police just have an agenda, like they're
picking and choosing," he said, saying stores similar to his continue
to operate freely.

Police seized about $24,000 worth of cannabis, cannabis oil, shatter
and marijuana edibles from his store.

Olson, 46, was charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking
under three kilograms.

Olson said Thursday he plans to fight the charges.

Police also charged three people after searches at a residence and a
hemp shop in west Edmonton.

The charges include counts of causing a child to be drug endangered
against a 29-year-old man and a 29-year-old woman, neither of whom can
be named.

Lead up to legalization

The federal government plans to legalize recreational marijuana in the

Edmonton is expected to become a hub of cannabis production, with more
than a dozen production facilities approved or in the planning stages.

On the same day police publicized their seizures, Torontobased
recreational marijuanaretailer Fire & Flower announced it was moving
its headquarters to Edmonton.

The province will open applications for private cannabis retailers
March 6.

Medical marijuana, on the other hand, has been available to patients
since court rulings in the late 1990s.

About 91,000 medical marijuana clients are registered in Alberta,
according to Health Canada.

Olson opened his dispensary eight months ago to cater to medical
patients who want to buy their product in a pharmacy-like setting.

"They're an underserved demographic; most of them are sick or ill, so
they don't have a large voice," Olson said.

The federal government's cannabis legalization task force noted in a
2016 report that many medical users want to maintain a separate system
to buy their cannabis because of the "stigma" associated with
purchasing marijuana from recreational outlets.

Olson said he was concerned the charges could limit the ability of
dispensary operators to participate in the legal market.

Det. Guy Pilon, with EDGE, stressed that marijuana remains

"Our direction from (prosecutors) is we will enforce it until such
time as the laws have changed," he said.

"If (cannabis operations are) following all of the Health Canada rules
and regulations, then they are running lawfully," Pilon added.

"If they're running outside of those rules and regulations, operating
in the grey area, it's illegal."
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