A waiting game: undaunted Saint John pot shops reopen after raids
King Cana and HBB Medical Inc. have now reopened, despite possibility police will come back
It's been more than three weeks since police raided six Saint John stores selling marijuana. Since then two have reopened and remained open in the face of further police action.
Saint John Police executed search warrants on Jan. 24, seizing marijuana products and money from all six stores. Twelve people were arrested and charged with possession of drugs for the purpose of trafficking.
When the dust settled and the keys were given back to the owners of those stores, two decided to reopen.
- 12 people charged after police raid 6 medical marijuana dispensaries in Saint John
- Police raids on Saint John pot shops shock advocacy group
King Cana on Germain Street only waited a few days before getting back in action. HBB Medical Inc. managed to kick-start its business on Feb. 4, but only at one of its two raided locations.
Sitting in the front entrance of his Chesley Drive store, HBB executive manager Bowe Merchant greeted a steady stream of clients Wednesday morning.
Merchant is aware the store's reopening could bring police down on him, but he said he's still trying to be respectful of the law.
During the shutdown, Merchant said, it was difficult knowing that several customers, including some suffering from terminal illnesses, didn't have access to the store's products.
"Only reason we're here is for the people," Merchant said.
During the police crackdown, Merchant said four employees were arrested at his two stores.
Among them was his father and the company owner, Hank Merchant.
A court order imposed on those charged with trafficking restricts their access to the pot stores, so Merchant said he had to hire new staff.
One of the new hires at HBB is Michael Cruz, who admitted he was nervous about another police raid.
But Cruz said it was worth the risk because he understands what it means to go without medicinal marijuana.
"This is a good cause," said Cruz, who described how marijuana helps with his PTSD.
Finding new employees wasn't the only difficult part of reopening HBB Medical Inc.
Merchant said the products and money seized meant the company had to draw on resources from stores in Moncton, Fredericton and Dalhousie.
He also said the store has limited the amount of cash it keeps in its store in case the police return.
CBC News requested information from the Saint John police as to how it's handling the reopened stores.
Sgt. Charles Breen referred the matter to the street cime unit, which didn't respond.
In the past, Breen has said any of the stores reopening would be revisited by police.
Testing the waters
Merchant said he knows the risks involved with opening the doors at HBB Medical and is just "testing the waters."
The knowledge that police could walk in the door at any moment was a waiting game, he said.
Currently, he said the staff are working "day by day, hoping for the best."
Despite the difficulty caused by the raids, Merchant said he understands why they happened.
"I have no bad feelings against the Saint John police," he said, adding Chief John Bates had a tough decision to make.
Because the store he manages operates within a legal grey area ahead of legalization, Merchant said he doesn't blame the police.
CBC News requested a comment from the manager of King Cana. An employee came out from the back room to say the company was not doing interviews.