RCMP lay down the law with Penticton marijuana dispensaries - InfoNews

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RCMP lay down the law with Penticton marijuana dispensaries

FILE PHOTO - Jukka Laurio is pictured in front of his marijuana dispensary Herbal Green Apothecary in Penticton in this file photo. Laurio says he'll let his stock run out and wait a couple of months for federal legislation following a police notice sent to marijuana dispensaries this week.
March 15, 2017 - 4:52 PM

PENTICTON - Penticton’s embattled marijuana dispensaries have been served another blow with a warning letter from the RCMP.

Herbal Green Apothecary owner Jukka Laurio says he received a letter from the Penticton RCMP on Monday, March 13, informing him what he was doing was illegal, and if he continued to operate, the RCMP may take action.

“They are basically saying I have to close down,” he said, noting the Ministry of Health recently used the word “committed” when discussing bringing in legislation regarding legalization of marijuana by this spring.

Laurio said this is the first time the RCMP exercised their authority.

He hadn't shut down his dispensary because there are people in the community who rely on his services and don’t know where else to turn. However, he says he will be selling off his remaining stock at discounted prices and won’t be bringing in new product. Then he’ll wait a couple of months to see what happens.

“(The federal governement) should give us some clues on how they plan to distribute (marijuana). I just want to make sure I have a nice, clean slate and move in on the new program,” he said.

Penticton city council dealt with a number of applications for marijuana dispensaries over the course of last year, hammering out a set of guidelines by which the city would grant temporary use permits.

Laurio’s application was one of five rejected by council, while two others, Green Essence Head Shop and Okanagan Cannabinoid Therapy, were granted permits.

The other two dispensaries given warning letters by the police, Green Essence or Okanagan Cannabinoid, couldn't be reached for comment.

Penticton RMCP Sgt. Andrew Baylis confirmed the detachment did send letters to marijuana dispensaries outlining the current, applicable law.

The letter states:

The RCMP is responsible for enforcing Canadian laws as they stand today. Our communities expect that we will take enforcement action to meet this responsibility and do so in an impartial and professional manner. The RCMP encourages local businesses to conduct their operations within the current scope of local, provincial and federal laws. If business operators choose to conduct their operations outside these laws (they) may be prosecuted.

When asked if the letter was a locally-based police initiative and if there will be increase enforcement, Baylis replied, “All I can say is, as the Canadian law stands today, that’s what we act on."

He says there has been no change to the RCMP's level of enforcement, "It’s basically the status quo.”

Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said the city is aware the RCMP issued letters to the three dispensaries, but the action was not done at the city’s behest.

“Marijuana dispensaries have been in the spotlight not only in Penticton but elsewhere and to date the federal government haven’t been helpful, plus the RCMP have not provided enforcement,” Jakubeit said in an email.

Jakubeit said the city created the temporary use permits to allow people access to medical marijuana and sort out the growing proliferation of dispensaries in the city.

He said enforcement of the law is the RCMP’s jurisdiction and separate from the city.

“We will have to see what course of action they take next. This enforcement letter would have been nice to see nine months ago, now I believe there are other issues such as property crime and targeting prolific offenders that the RCMP need to focus their resources on,” Jakubeit said.

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