Although Vancouver recently became the first Canadian city to regulate medical cannabis dispensaries, the Federal Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has vowed to shut them down. Health Canada recently sent out letters to 13 cannabis dispensaries across the country, warning that the RCMP could raid them if they do not stop selling marijuana immediately – even those in cities where local police have openly tolerated them without issue. The Provincial Vancouver Police has let the pot shops slide, commenting that the dispensaries can remain in place as long as they abide by regulations and don’t sell cannabis to non-medical users or children.
“I think it opens a giant can of worms, it’s really doing an end-run around the elected officials in Vancouver as well as the Vancouver Police Department,” he said.
Health Canada and the RCMP allow medical cannabis to be grown and distributed via the mail, but they want to stop the distribution via medical retail shops. Police in Vancouver have raided and shut down some medical marijuana dispensaries suspected of selling to minors or having links to organized crime, painting a bad picture for the remaining dispensaries that follow the rules. Lawyer Kirk Tousaw calls the move unprecedented and inappropriate.
The Vancouver City Council approved regulations to keep licensed medical marijuana dispensaries operating. At the time, federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose said the shops remained illegal and federal government remained committed to shutting them down. Interestingly, receiving medical cannabis via regular mail without censure is another contraction: Canada Post, a highly-regulated and respected arm of the federal government, has no qualms against delivering medical marijuana.
Until Health Canada offers a clearer set of regulations that honors cannabis as a medicine overall – Canada will continue to experience conflicts between local law enforcement and arms of government.
“I don’t believe in any sense of the word you’re going to see the RCMP come marching into Vancouver,” Police Chief Adam Palmer said, noting that although RCMP have authority throughout Canada, they don’t interfere with local police.
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