Vernon pot shops to sell marijuana off and on after RCMP raid threat

Five pot shops in Vernon have agreed to sell marijuana on a rotating basis, after RCMP said last week they may raid stores if the owners don't close up shop.

'Patients are at risk of falling between the cracks once again,' says marijuana dispensary owner

This sign, in front of MMJ Total Health Care, is part of the pot shop owners' efforts to invite the public into their stores and generate dialogue. (Brady Stratchan / CBC)

Five pot shops in Vernon have agreed to sell marijuana on a rotating basis, after RCMP said last week they may raid stores if the owners don't close up shop.

The warning in Vernon last week followed several similar police advisories in other jurisdictions, including Nanaiimo, Sechelt, and Mission. In all three cases, police moved in with search warrants to seize products and make arrests.

The marijuana dispensaries in Vernon say they take the RCMP's threat seriously, and will suspend sales in four of the five stores every day, leaving one to serve customers who need medical marijuana.

"If we all close down at the same time, we have patients that are terminally ill and by doing that, we are not actually holding any compassion," said Jeff Gaudette, president of MMJ Total Health Care in downtown Vernon.

Open house policy

Imre Kovacs, owner of Herbal Health Centre, says patients will suffer as a result of the RCMP pressuring marijuana dispensaries like his to close. (Brady Strachan / CBC)

Imre Kovacs, who runs Herbal Health Centre, says the owners have agreed to keep all their stores open to the public during the rotating sale suspensions. The hope is that people in the neighbourhood will come in to talk about the situation and possible solutions.

"We won't have any product on site and we won't' be doing any retail sales but our facility will be open for the public and for our patients to come and visit and talk to our staff. Staff will be on hand to answer phone calls."

This is part of a greater need for conversation on the issue of medical marijuana, said Kovacs.

"So we need to have a dialogue on this. Patients are at risk of falling between the cracks once again."

Strategic uncertainty

Owner of MMJ Total Health Care, Jeff Gaudette, with Haisa Glaim, says some of his patients are terminally ill and depend on medical marijuana for care. (Brady Strachan / CBC)

Kovacs says the RCMP has put their businesses into an uncertain situation, and pot shop owners are simply creating their own uncertain situation for the cops. There is no set schedule as to which store will be selling on which day.

"We're not sure exactly what that's going to look like and we don't really want to let everybody know how that's going to look because that's going to take away the whole point," said Kovacs.

Both Kovacs and Gaudette are hoping the Trudeau government will push forward its plan to regulate marijuana in Canada.

"We're suggesting that we have a moratorium until the federal government gives us a little more clarity and direction as to where they're going with regulation and their legalization platform," said Kovacs.

To listen to the full audio, click the link labelled: Vernon pot shops respond after RCMP threaten raids.

With files from Brady Strachan


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