Pot shop owner says police carried out search without a warrant

The owner of what police are calling an illegal marijuana dispensary in St. John's says police searched his store without a warrant and insists he isn't doing anything wrong.

Tony Ali says The Healing Tree doesn't sell weed, but had products on display

The Healing Tree, which calls itself a medical herbal welllness centre, was visited by police officers on Wednesday night. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

The owner of what police are calling an illegal marijuana dispensary in St. John's says police searched his store without a warrant and insists he isn't doing anything wrong.

Tony Ali owns The Healing Tree in downtown St. John's, which was raided by police Wednesday evening.

Officers with the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit Newfoundland and Labrador (CFSEU-NL) and Royal Newfoundland Constabulary said they executed a search warrant and seized "a large amount" of marijuana products and some cash.

Ali said he's not surprised police searched his store.

"We were anticipating this, but we didn't think it was going to come so harsh," he said.

"We were aware of the constabulary in Newfoundland and the mindset of the people being of a conservative manner, we wanted to actually just offer the community there CBD products, which means they have no psychoactive ingredents."

He said the products still have therapeutic value without falling under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, however CBD (cannabidiol) products are considered illegal Schedule II drugs in Canada.

'They just came in and took everything'

Tony Ali operates The Healing Tree in downtown St. John's. (IMDB)

Ali was in Vancouver, where he owns three Healing Tree locations, at the time of the bust and he said police didn't have a warrant when they searched the store.

"I think they came in the day before and said 'you can't do this,' and then they came in the next day without any warrants, without anything, and the staff member there was very scared because they came in with guns," Ali said.

"And they just came in and took everything."

Ali said he would like to have a meeting with police to keep the lines of communication open. The CFSEU-NL declined to comment on the search and seizure, but issued a press release about it Thursday. 

No marijuana for sale

Ali also objects to his store being called a dispensary and said The Healing Tree is a "wellness centre" that does not sell marijuana, but connects customers with licensed suppliers.

"We had the samples of the marijuana products, but we were educating the people how to access those products via a doctor meeting through Skype, and then transfer them over to online, licensed mail-order suppliers," he said. 

He said staff at The Healing Tree ensure customers are over 19 and meet appropriate medical requirements.

"They can either bring in their doctor's files, doctor forms. If they don't have a doctor, then we are happy to introduce them to our doctors who meet them via Skype," said Ali.

If they don't have a doctor, then we are happy to introduce them to our doctors who meets them via Skype.- Tony Ali

"The doctor interviews them free of charge, and if the doctor sees that there is a medical condition, then the doctor will issue a prescription."

He said the doctors ask all the necessary questions and customers can then take advantage of mail-order and online distributors once a prescription has been written.

Currently the only legal way to obtain medically-prescribed marijuana in Canada is to order from licensed producers, delivered through the mail. 

Although his customers meet online with doctors outside of Newfoundland and Labrador, Ali said he's not aware of any guidelines against doctors prescribing for patients in other provinces.

"The federal government hasn't said anything about it, our local governments haven't said anything about it, so we're not really seeing any difference where a doctor [in Vancouver] might write a prescription," he said.

With files from Ryan Cooke