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Medical marijuana patients shocked by Vernon dispensary closures

FILE PHOTO: Imre Kovacs and Ben Hunt at the Herbal Health Centre.
December 08, 2015 - 8:00 PM

VERNON - Medical marijuana patients coming to The Herbal Health Centre this week are shocked and upset to see the shelves empty and devoid of their medicine.

The health centre, along with a coalition of other local dispensaries, has suspended retail sales in response to an RCMP warning to shut down. The dispensaries are closing on a rotational basis, coalition spokesperson Imre Kovacs says, adding the inconvenience is expected to be temporary.

Kovacs says patients are upset and anxious over the closures, but he hopes they will take their concerns up with policy makers, not the dispensary.

“People immediately have a response when they’re not able to get their medicine,” Kovacs says. “Their response should not be directed to us, but to the various authorities that make the legislation and the rules.”

He adds the closures will give the coalition some time to work on addressing some of the confusion around the current legal status of marijuana dispensaries, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s campaign promise to legalize pot.

“We have very good legal representation who is working behind the scenes to understand how we can be part of a greater dialogue and introduce some stability... while the federal government implements a plan,” Kovacs says. “We are finding ways to be part of the conversation about how to move forward with medical cannabis access and legalization and regulation at large.”

Medical marijuana patient Mary Horvatincic was one of many patients who showed up at The Herbal Health Centre on Monday, Dec. 7, to pick up her medicine only to find the shelves empty.

“Where is the access for me to come and purchase what I need?” Horvatincic says. “I feel shocked that this is happening.”

Horvatincic takes marijuana edibles instead of prescription medications for Parkinson's disease, which she says weren’t working and were giving her negative side effects.

“The best place for me to come for my product is the dispensary over going to the streets,” she says.

She doesn’t use Health Canada’s mail order delivery system because she prefers to purchase ready-made baked goods. With the closure, her options are to go back to her old synthetic drugs, or visit one of the other local dispensaries.

“It makes me concerned about all of the people out there who are aren’t using this as a recreational drug that depend on this for severe illnesses,” she says. “What are they going to do?”

Together, the coalition of dispensaries serves more than 10,000 patients.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

News from © iNFOnews, 2015

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