Regina police chief says expect 'headlines' as pot dispensaries face possible charges before legalization

Regina's police chief says the service may still lay charges against marijuana dispensary owners before the drug becomes legal, adding that the public can expect "headlines" in the coming weeks.

Marijuana seller says there would be public backlash if police shut down dispensaries

Regina's police chief, Evan Bray, speaks to reporters after telling a chamber of commerce meeting to expect 'headlines' regarding marijuana dispensaries before the drug is legalized. (CBC News)

Regina's police chief says the service might still lay charges against marijuana dispensary owners before the drug becomes legal, adding that the public can expect "headlines" in the coming weeks.

Chief Evan Bray made the statement about headlines in a speech to a chamber of commerce meeting in Regina Tuesday afternoon.

He told reporters after the speech that the police service would be educating the dispensaries, and the public, to make it clear that selling marijuana is still not legal.

"And from there, I mean we've got investigations ongoing all the time, but there could be some criminal consequences if we find people — after this communication is done — if we find people breaking the law," he said.

Process to follow

Bray said whether or not the dispensary owners will face charges depends on the situation and the investigation.

He said people with prescriptions must still follow a process to make sure what they are doing is within the law.

It's not me fear-mongering, it's me making sure that we have public safety.- Regina Police Chief Evan Bray

"The legislation is such that it does not allow for a business to sell marijuana over the counter, even [to] those that have a prescription," said Bray.

"There's [a] prescribed process in place to follow and it doesn't involve walking in and being able to buy it at a business."

Concerns about lack of regulation

He also raised concerns about a lack of regulation prior to legalization, pointing to stories about how marijuana has been doctored to increase its effect. Bray said he did not have a specific example from Regina.

"It's not me fear-mongering, it's me making sure that we have public safety," said Bray.

"Overdoses and different challenges are things that we deal with in the drug world — and I realize marijuana is a little bit different when it comes to that but, again, safety is an important part of what we do, so that regulation piece is something that has to exist."

Dispensary owner predicting 'turmoil'

Dean Foster, the owner of the Natural Healing Clinic which sells marijuana in Regina, said he expects to see "turmoil" in the coming months.

He believes the city's dispensaries are easy targets for the police service, which he said has benefited from having the dispensaries in the city.  

"Having these dispensaries in the city cleaned up the marijuana drug trade throughout the city, because all those dealers, they don't have any customers anymore," said Foster.

"We did a lot of work for the police. We made it really, really easy on them because now they don't have to go out and raid 250 different people, 'cause now we're all very public, and they can just come and pick us off one by one."

'You can't even apply for the licences yet'

Foster plans to apply to sell marijuana in every community where the Saskatchewan government is issuing permits through a lottery system for when marijuana becomes legal.

He believes there would be backlash if police started shutting down sellers and dispensaries with legalization on the horizon.

"We have way too many patients that come here for them all to go away, and do what? And then who helps these patients?" said Foster.

"If they came and closed us down tomorrow or next week, and then this legislation and these licences — which you can't even apply for the licences yet because the form doesn't even exist yet — who takes care of all these people?"

With files from CBC's Joelle Seal