December 01, 2015 - 1:52 PM
VERNON - Medical marijuana dispensaries in Vernon have been warned to close their doors.
Hasia Glaim co-owns MMJ Total Health Care on 31 Avenue downtown Vernon and was surprised to get a visit from the Vernon RCMP Nov. 24.
“We were given a verbal warning to shut down as we are operating illegally and we do not comply with Health Canada regulations,” Glaim says. "They said ourselves and our patients may be criminally charged.”
This is the first warning the health centre has received since opening in December 2014. Unlike several dispensaries recently raided by the RCMP in Nanaimo, they were not given a cease and desist letter stating when they need to be closed by.
“It’s a complete surprise, especially to our dispensary because we’ve helped the RCMP in a few downtown crimes with our surveillance tapes,” Glaim says. “It makes us a little uneasy when we’re working with them, then we are given a threatening warning.”
She says Vernon’s other five dispensaries were all given the same warning. Three have confirmed the warning to Infonews.ca.
Glaim says they have no plans of closing the health centre, which serves 500 people including cancer patients and children with epilepsy. The centre retained legal counsel and also has support from the Canadian Cannabis Coalition.
“We’re not backing down, we’ll be here regardless of what happens. We’ll continue doing what we’re doing and helping our patients — they’re who this comes down to,” Glaim says. “We knew from day one it was a grey area but we strongly believe in what we do.”
The health centre has also launched a petition against the order which patients are more than happy to sign, Glaim says.
Another local dispensary, the Herbal Health Centre, also has no intention of closing its doors, despite the recent warning from the RCMP.
"The city of Vernon and RCMP were fully aware of our intentions months and years in advance of us opening for business. We have complied with direction and feedback we received from these officials and we have operated openly, transparently and responsibly — the record is very clear," spokesperson Imre Kovacs says in a written statement.
He notes there have been no recent changes in legislation, but points out the new federal government has set a process in motion for the legalization and regulation of cannabis.
"Medical cannabis access in Canada has been a patient-driven movement — it’s literally been sick people fighting for the right to access cannabis for therapeutic purposes through the courts for over a decade. To date, the access provided by Health Canada has been inadequate — as stated by the courts in consistent decisions supporting patients’ access via compassion clubs, dispensaries and other means," he says. "There’s been a social paradigm shift and we’ve played a role in erasing the stigma associated with the industry by operating a professional and sustainable model. With the support of our local administrations we’ve been able to serve a membership base of over 2000 patients — people who have voted with their feet. We have a mandate and a responsibility to continue our service. If patients stop coming then we will have no reason to keep our doors open. We stand behind other facilities who are facing the same decisions."
Vernon RCMP has not responded to requests for interviews. Initial information suggests the move is specific to Vernon and not province-wide or nation-wide.
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— This story was updated at 2:09 p.m. Dec. 1, 2015 to include a statement from the Herbal Health Centre.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015