Halifax’s first marijuana lounge is officially opening on Gottingen Street this weekend amid questions of its legality.
The lounge is called Farm Assists and while it welcomes medical marijuana users, smoking is not allowed.
Users can use a vaporizer, which doesn’t create smoke. The people must be licensed to use medical marijuana.
The front of the store is filled with display cases featuring bongs and marijuana accessories. A lounge area is just beyond that.
Mark Beaver suffers from chronic pain. He lost two of his fingers in an accident. He likes the atmosphere of the lounge.
“People are friendly. No one here gives anybody hassle or anything like that,” he says. “When I smoke cannabis, it’s like I can deal with my pain.”
Store owner Chris Enns also plans to sell medical marijuana, which is where the legality of the business gets hazy.
Enns has a medical marijuana licence himself. Health Canada, the regulator of medical marijuana, says storefronts and dispensaries that distribute cannabis are illegal.
Enns disagrees and says it exists within a grey area of the law.
'There’s always a fear that goes into the deepest core of our being that we will be raided again.' - Chris Enns
Drug charges are pending against Enns and his fiancee Sherri Reeve after a police raid at the medicinal marijuana club they ran in Porter's Lake last year.
He says it's possible that their new business could be raided as well.
“There’s always a fear that goes into the deepest core of our being that we will be raided again,” he says. “A year and a half ago we were raided and faced charges under the CDSA [Controlled Drugs and Substances Act] and many of those charges continue to roll through the courts, including a major constitutional challenge that will be unfolding this coming March.”
But if the lounge is raided again, Enns says he isn’t worried.
“I truly don't believe there's a judge in this province that is going to put me in jail for trying to provide cannabis as medicine to people with a licence from a doctor to use it as medicine.”
Another service Enns will provide is referrals to what their website calls “compassionate and supportive local physicians available for those in need of licensing”.
According to Enns, the patients he has seen so far range in age from 18 to in their late 90s. The conditions the patients suffer from include cancer, arthritis, epilepsy and ALS.
Health Canada says it's up to local authorities to deal with stores that distribute marijuana. Halifax Regional Police say anyone who sells marijuana at this type of establishment is actively drug trafficking.