Pharmacy owner wants city, province to regulate pot sales

Internet pharmacy pioneer Daren Jorgenson says he's starting a company to sell recreational marijuana — but he'll wait for the province and city to set regulations before he opens a store in Winnipeg.
Internet pharmacy pioneer Daren Jorgenson says he's starting a company to sell recreational marijuana — but he'll wait for the province and city to set regulations before he opens a store in Winnipeg. 2:15
Internet pharmacy pioneer Daren Jorgenson says he's starting a company to sell recreational marijuana — but he'll wait for the province and city to set regulations before he opens a store in Winnipeg.
Daren Jorgenson wants to get into the (legal) pot business. (CBC)

The businessman says he should have a Vancouver location up and running as early as March, but a Winnipeg store will only come when either the city or the province, or both, gets rules in place for the industry to follow.

"BC has been [in] the forefront of the marijuana industry in Canada for decades, so a lot of expertise exists out there for the manufacture of the product, for the retail of the product," he said. "Now you have several jurisdictions out there, like Vancouver and Victoria, coming out with licensing and retailing."

Jorgenson and a partner started an online pharmacy in the early 90s. Eventually the two would go their separate ways. Today, Jorgenson still operates a pharmacy, but he sees real business possibilities in pot.

"I smoked marijuana when I was younger, just like most people. I don't smoke it now, haven't smoked it for probably a couple of decades, but I think, morally, people — Canadians and Americans —  for the most part feel it's no worse than alcohol at a minimum, and probably less harmful than alcohol."

Pot-smoking MP, now PM, prompts business

Jorgenson said he got serious about the pot business when he saw a change in attitude at the federal level.
Daren Jorgenson says he'll only get in the weed business if and when the province and city develop a set of regulations for where shops can set up in relation to places like schools. (CBC NEWS)

"The prime minister of Canada, not just the prime minister-elect ... said he's going to [legalize] this. He admitted smoking marijuana himself; not just as a youth but as a sitting member of parliament. So the public viewpoints of this have changed dramatically," Jorgenson said.

Jorgenson told CBC News he has already identified suppliers for the product in British Columbia and Colorado (where decriminalization or legalization has started a huge marijuana industry), but he needs jurisdictions such as the city of Winnipeg and the province of Manitoba to get their rules in place. 

"I can't open a storefront in Manitoba and I won't until there is some clarity on the laws and regulations," Jorgenson said.

Two Winnipeg councillors have asked for city staff to prepare a report examining the issue of marijuana stores. Ross Eadie, Mynarski ward councillor, says it's just a matter of time before the drug is legalized or decriminalized.

"It is coming and it is coming fast. Society is changing. This will happen," Eadie said.

Ottawa has to take the first toke

John Orlikow, the chair of the property, planning and development committee of city hall, said Winnipeg has already started a conversation with the province about regulation, but it's up to the federal government to open the door on pot-through legislation.

"We need to know where the feds are at first. What is their intent? How do they intend to distribute it? A whole bunch of regulations will come up there,' Orlikow said.

The River Heights–East Fort Garry councillor says the city would want to have a say over location. Orlikow told CBC News he would want some kind of rules that would give neighbourhoods a strong voice in allowing or not allowing a store that sells marijuana.

That's exactly the kind of information Jorgenson wants to know.

"So many blocks within a school, so many blocks of a daycare, so many blocks of a community club?" Jorgenson says. "I would go as far as a church or a mosque or a synagogue, just to be more friendly to the community."

Jorgenson sees opportunities for cleaning up already booming industry where pot is easily available; either through local dealers or even on the internet. He says he was able to order marijuana online and it was delivered, by Canada Post, to his Winnipeg mailbox. Jorgenson says it's time for local politicians to wake up.

"Winnipeg and Manitoba have not taken it seriously. Maybe some councillors and some members of the legislature have taken it seriously, but as a whole they are kicking the can down the road." he said.

Jorgenson says hopefully some of the tax revenue collected from the sale of weed would go to enforcement and education about the product. He also hopes regulations will look closely at penalties for driving while under the influence of marijuana and controlling the sale of so-called "edible" products such as cookies, candies and other cannabis products.

Monday the province said that it was ready to start thinking about the legalization of marijuana. In the throne speech the government said "the federal government has signaled that it will be legalizing marijuana."

"The Liquor and Gaming Authority and Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries will be well positioned to regulate the sale and distribution of marijuana in a safe and socially responsible manner."


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