New Brunswick

Police raids on Saint John pot shops shock advocacy group

Advocates of medicinal marijuana say they were stunned by Saint John police raids on six marijuana dispensaries in the city.

Sgt. Charles Breen says no more raids on marijuana dispensaries are expected

Sgt. Charles Breen said 21 officers from several police forces participated in the simultaneous raids executed throughout the city. (CBC)

Advocates of medicinal marijuana say they were stunned by Saint John police raids on six marijuana dispensaries in the city.

The Maritimers Unite for Medical Marijuana Society promised to launch a letter-writing campaign to make sure all levels of government know about the raids Tuesday and the issues involved in medicinal marijuana use.

"Maritimers Unite for Medical Marijuana Society are shocked and saddened by the actions of Saint John Police Force with the raids on six medical cannabis dispensaries today," the organization said in a news release.

But reaction to the raids, which led to charges against 12 people, was mixed.

MP points to current laws

Wayne Long, the Saint John-Rothesay Liberal MP, said the federal government is working toward legislation legalizing cannabis, but "it is important to point out, that until the new legislation comes into force, the current laws remain in effect."

The drug remains illegal under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and the 12 people arrested in the raids have been charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking.

In September, Chief John Bates told CBC News that medical marijuana dispensaries weren't a top priority for the police force.

"We have crime issues that we're endeavouring to tackle, societal issues like homelessness, vagrancy, and panhandling in the uptown we're trying to cure," Bates said at the time.

Spreading 'like mushrooms'

On Tuesday, however, Bates said the raids shouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone.

Dispensaries "started popping up like mushrooms after a rainstorm," he said. Police were just working out the details of what to do about them.

Sgt. Charles Breen wouldn't say what was seized in the raids but didn't expect police would be executing any more search warrants on local dispensaries.

"However, the businesses are illegal, they don't have a licence in order to sell," he told reporters.

Will reassess if shops reopen

"If (the dispensaries) are reopened then it will be revisited by our department."

The search warrants were executed at:

  • Medicinal Grounds, 104 Prince William St.
  • Medicinal Grounds, 505 Rothesay Ave.
  • BCW, 8 Simpson Dr.
  • King Canna, 76 Germain St.
  • HBB Medical Inc., 1714 Rothesay Rd.
  • HBB Medical Inc., 199 Chesley Dr.

According to the Facebook page of King Canna Medicinal on Tuesday, the dispensary was "temporarily closed."

The 10 a.m. raids were part of an investigation by the Saint John Police Force integrated street crime unit over months.

Attempts to get comments from dispensary staff and customers were unsuccessful.

The Saint John operation was not part of a provincewide push, said Breen

With files from Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon