Both police and municipal inspectors are investigating the CannaLeaf marijuana store in downtown St. John's, which is operating in alleged contravention to city and criminal laws.
The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU-NL) is investigating two stores, and police officers visited the CannaLeaf on Monday night, Supt. Marlene Jesso, the officer in charge of the unit, told reporters on Tuesday.
Jesso said marijuana stores are unambiguously illegal under current Canadian law.
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"The public should understand that under Health Canada regulations, storefront dispensaries are illegal," she said.
"Whether they are for medical purposes or for recreational, they are illegal."
Jesso said the investigation into two downtown dispensaries is "a priority," but would not give a timeline for police action.
Media reports on the marijuana stores did not affect the police investigation, which Jesso said had already begun.
Jesso also said that buyers from either store "could be part of the prosecution" in the cases.
"The law has not changed, and until the government of Canada makes changes or legalizes, we will continue to investigate the illegal activity of dispensaries on a case by case basis."
City rules broken
St. John's Coun. Jonathan Galgay said municipal inspectors are also investigating CannaLeaf on Water Street because the owner did not do everything by the book.
"[CannaLeaf] failed to get a change of occupancy application to the city," said Galgay on Tuesday.
"Right now, they are in breach of regulations of the City of St. John's."
Galgay said that particular permit is required any time there is a change in the type of business operated at a particular location. A city inspector then evaluates the application.
"In this particular case, we did not receive the application, and therefore city inspectors will be going there to do a review."
Time for new guidelines?
Galgay said currently, the City does not have specific zoning rules related to the sale of marijuana.
But with a change in Canadian law anticipated next year, he said council needs to be prepared.
He said when the city reviews an application for a new bar, there are considerations, like liquor licensing and the impact on residential neighbourhoods. Similar criteria will have to be weighed for any business that wants to sell marijuana when it becomes legal.
"I will be asking council to begin the process now of looking at examples in North America where [marijuana] is legalized and I think it's something Canadian municipalities need to start to work on."
Province preparing: Parsons
Newfoundland and Labrador's Minister of Justice says his government, along with others, is preparing for the legalization of Marijuana.
He says government officials have been meeting with federal representatives regularly.
"It is federally driven, so we have wait and see where it's going to go from there, then we'll adjust and make sure that we take the steps that we have to," he said.
Parsons said it has not been decided how marijuana will eventually be distributed, but he has been considering how legalization will affect traffic laws in the province.