Nova Scotia

Defying drug charges, Halifax marijuana dispensary reopens after raid

A Halifax business shut down after a police raid on Friday has reopened its doors in the wake of drug charges against its employees, and is continuing to dispense medical and recreational marijuana.

Auntie's Health and Wellness was raided Dec. 30, 3 employees and its owner were arrested and charged

Shirley Martineau, owner of Auntie's Health and Wellness on Barrington Street, was arrested and charged on Friday with cultivating marijuana and two counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking. (Mike Hall/Word of Mouth Media)

A Halifax business shut down after a police raid on Friday has reopened its doors in the wake of drug charges against its employees, and is continuing to dispense medical and recreational marijuana.

Shirley Martineau, owner of Auntie's Health and Wellness on Barrington Street, was arrested and charged with cultivating marijuana and two counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking.

Three other men working at the store are charged with possession of cannabis resin and marijuana for the purpose of trafficking. 

Plans to restock store

Speaking from her Dartmouth-area home, the 66 year old says she's aware of the legal implications of restocking her store after Halifax police raided it.

But her business, she said, is filling a void left by a health care system that is difficult to navigate for people who want marijuana products.

"I have to make a stand. I have to fight for the cancer patients," Martineau told CBC News on Saturday. "They have to go behind Walmart to buy their medicine? That doesn't make sense to me."

'I put everything I had into that store'

Auntie's Health and Wellness was registered as a business in June. One week ago, Martineau said the store began to sell to anyone over the age of 19, with or without a medical marijuana licence.

She said it was a business decision not driven by profits, but to improve accessibility for all patients. 

"People were coming to me crying telling me they couldn't find a doctor," she said. "I put everything I had into that store."

Martineau is also appealing the city's decision to deny Auntie's an occupancy permit application because of the sale of medical marijuana. The city says selling pot through storefronts is illegal and against bylaws. 

Four people who work at a Halifax shop that advertised it was selling medical marijuana to customers without a prescription are now facing drug-related charges. 0:19

Providing alternatives

Staff Sgt. Andrew Matthews of the Halifax Regional Police said in an email Saturday that police are aware there is activity again and will continue to monitor it. 

Martineau said volunteers are running the store for now because the conditions of her release prevent her from going near it.

"What's the most devastating for me is the oil I had made just recently for a bunch of cancer patients. Now I can't get it," she said, fighting through tears. "It's not easy to make."

Due in court in 2017

Martineau also admits it hasn't been easy to keep the lights on. Revenue from recreational users pays for medical marijuana to be free for her customers, she said, but not for much more. 

Despite the risks, she said she's answering the call to give patients alternatives to opiates for pain relief.

"I opened the store today. And that's telling people not to give up," Martineau said. 

Martineau and the three other men charged are scheduled to appear in Halifax provincial court at a later date. 

With files from Steve Berry