Police cracking down on illegal Membertou cannabis outlets
Force says they are taking a soft approach, first asking the operators to voluntarily shut down
Cape Breton Regional Police are cracking down on 15 illegal cannabis dispensaries located in Membertou.
"That seems to be a high number for the community here," said Sgt. Barry Gordon. "Our concerns [are] they are located in residential neighbourhoods, where the products are coming from, who's taking the products in."
Police recently put a full-page notice in the Membertou newsletter saying the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation is the only legal outlet to buy cannabis and asking private operators to close up shop.
Gordon said the collaborative approach to working with the community is starting to show results.
"After the letter went out, one of the dispensaries actually closed," he said.
However, the regional force's drug section is investigating, so Gordon said he couldn't get into details about the ones continuing to operate.
The high number of illegal outlets in Membertou are mainly in residential neighbourhoods and that has led to complaints about traffic safety and the possibility of sales to minors, Gordon said.
Using what police are calling a collaborative approach means leaving some of the dispensaries in operation, despite the fact they are illegal.
But Gordon said police are not turning a blind eye.
The reserve is federal land and police are factoring that into the investigation and dealing with federal Crown attorneys, he said.
In the meantime, police are increasing traffic and regular patrols and keeping an eye on things.
"We as a service are certainly doing everything proactive in order to ... make sure that the community is kept safe," Gordon said.
Mi'kmaw chiefs across Nova Scotia had been asking the province to work with them on regulation of cannabis sales, but police say the law is the law.
In December, RCMP raided five dispensaries in the Halifax area and arrested nine people and seized cannabis and cash.
Earlier this month, RCMP repeated the effort at three dispensaries in Millbrook, arresting five people and seizing more goods.
RCMP Cpl. Lisa Croteau said the Mounties received complaints about a number of dispensaries in Millbrook, but took action on three after the force's measured approach — asking the operations to close voluntarily — failed.
She said it's unclear if the others simply closed down.
"I can't speak if it was because they stopped, or just that these three in particular had potential for youths nearby and concerns that the sales were going to be done to the youths at that location," Croteau said.
"We just want to make sure everyone's safe and that the potential sale to the youth of the community is not being done," she said.
Both police forces say they are hoping for co-operation, but will eventually uphold the law.
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