British Columbia

Federal medical marijuana raids not part of Vancouver police plans

Vancouver police say they are not planning any raids on local pot dispensaries after Health Canada reportedly sent out letters warning operators they have two weeks to shut down or face an RCMP crackdown.

Health Canada emails warn medical marijuana shops they have two weeks to shut down

Vancouver's roughly 100 marijuana shops have been told to apply for a $30,000 licensing and will be subject to restrictions on their locations. (CBC)

Vancouver police say they are not planning any raids on local pot dispensaries after Health Canada reportedly sent out letters warning operators they have two weeks to shutdown or face an RCMP crackdown.

"Our position on the marijuana stores has not changed," said a statement issued by Const. Brian Montague on Friday morning.

"We have a great relationship with the RCMP and work together often to tackle regional issues," he said.

"The RCMP have the authority to enforce the Criminal Code anywhere in Canada, but I doubt they have the desire to spend time, money, and reallocate resources to a city policed by the VPD."

On Wednesday Health Canada sent out letters to 13 illegal marijuana dispensaries and compassion clubs across the country, warning the RCMP could raid them if they do not stop advertising and selling marijuana immediately, even those in cities where local police have tolerated them.

The letters come after Vancouver City Council approved new regulations to license medical marijuana dispensaries. At the time federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose said the operations remained illegal and federal government remained committed to shutting them down.

"Further to the Minister of Health's announcement on August 1, 2015, the department took steps to proactively monitor all forms of marijuana advertising and promotion," a spokesperson for Health Canada told CBC News.

"On September 9, 2015, the department (Office of Medical Cannabis) sent 13 letters to organizations who were found to be illegally advertising the sale of marijuana.

"The letters require that all advertising activities with marijuana cease. If continued non-compliance is identified, the Department may refer the case to law enforcement agencies for appropriate action."

Puzzling demands

One of the operators who received the letter by email on Wednesday was Jamie Shaw with the B.C. Compassion Club in Vancouver.

Vancouver police execute search warrants at the Weed Glass and Gifts shop in Kitsilano in April, over concerns the shop was allegedly selling products to minors. (Stephanie Mercier/CBC)

Shaw says she was puzzled by the demand that the society stop advertising, which she said it does not do.

"The letter said something about advertising in the subject line, but then didn't actually explain it at all, and actually started talking about Bill [C-17], and basically said that we had to stop and cease and desist all advertising of cannabis products, which is not something that we do," said Shaw.

Lawyer Kirk Tousaw, who worked on the landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling on cannabis extracts, calls the move unprecedented and inappropriate.

"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."

Police in Vancouver have raided and shut down some marijuana dispensaries suspected of selling pot to minors or having links to organized crime in recent months, but have generally adopted a hands-off approach to the marijuana dispensaries.