New Brunswick

3 Fredericton medical marijuana shops close after police intervention

All three medical marijuana dispensaries in Fredericton have voluntarily closed down after getting notices from the Fredericton police.

HBB Medical, King Canna and Buddy's are forced to close after warning from police

Three medical marijuana dispensaries, including HBB Medical, closed their doors after receiving notices of enforcement from the Fredericton police. (Jon Collicott/CBC)

Three illegal medical marijuana dispensaries have closed down after intervention from the Fredericton Police.

On July 4, the force issued notices of enforcement to HBB Medical, King Canna and Buddy's medical marijuana dispensaries ordering them to close within 14 business days.

The decision to seek the closure of the dispensaries this way — by giving them time to close or possibly risk a raid —  was made with police staffing in mind, said Insp, Kimberly Quartermain of the Fredericton police.

She said the force has been dealing with other criminal matters that require a lot of officers, and the force wanted to make sure it wasn't spread too thin.

"As an organization, public safety and issues are reviewed continually, and this is the time that we had the members to place this as a priority for us," said Quartermain.

"This is not the first time we've had contact with these organizations. We've had conversations, we've had visits, we've had discussions. But this is the time we've pulled the team together to look at this more critically."

Medical versus recreational

Hank Merchant kept HBB Medical open Thursday to speak with customers, but no marijuana was being sold. (Jon Collicott/CBC)

Medical marijuana is legal in Canada, but it has to be bought through certain government-approved suppliers.

None of the dispensaries that were closed were government-approved. The only supplier approved in New Brunswick sends marijuana through the mail and has no storefront according to Quartermain.

Hank Merchant, the CEO of HBB Medical, said the dispensary was open Thursday so staff could talk with customers about what was going on, but there was no marijuana on the site.

Won't use retail shops

"We've had half a dozen clients come in and they've all indicated the same thing — that they cannot shop at Cannabis New Brunswick stores because of various reasons," said Merchant.

"The main one is that they're medical patients. They can't shop in that environment."

Juanita Curtis, a customer of HBB Medical, said she uses medical marijuana because of a farming accident.

She travelled to the dispensary on Thursday hoping to buy marijuana.

"This is where I get my medication … I don't know what I'll do," said Curtis.

"I drove all the way from Miramichi."

Neighbours relieved

Frank McCafferty, a neighbour of King Canna, was happy the dispensary was shut down. (Jon Collicott/CBC)

Not everyone is upset about the closures.

Frank McCafferty, a neighbour of King Canna on Hanwell Road, said the dispensary had become a nuisance and safety hazard with people smoking marijuana in the parking lot and speeding.

"It should've never been here and I feel good about it being closed," said McCafferty.

"There's [families] living up in there. The reeking of marijuana smoke was going up through the building. Lot of good families had to move out of here."

Kayla Oliver, who lived above King Canna, had mixed feelings about the closure.

"It wasn't horrible, but you could smell the marijuana really badly in our apartment," said Oliver.

"It's nice having an empty parking lot and not having to fight for a parking space."

CEO blames government

Merchant puts much of the blame at the feet of the provincial Liberal government, which will be opening its own pot stores in the fall for recreational users. (Jon Collicott/CBC)

Merchant said he's not sure what his next step will be, or if he will continue to sell marijuana online.

He places at least part of the blame for the predicament he and his customers now face at the feet of the provincial government.

"The Liberal government is anti-private dispensaries," said Merchant.

"It's an unfortunate scene because the Liberal government is simply out of touch with the requirements of the medical marijuana clients."

Merchant said he is hoping for a change in government come September.

With files from Catherine Harrop