CANNABIS CULTURE – Despite his pre-election support for storefront medical marijuana dispensaries, Canada’s new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has done nothing to stop a series of brutal police raids on med-pot shops across the country in recent days.
Dispensaries in Nanaimo, Vernon, Sechelt, Mission, Saskatoon, and Halifax have been raided and closed down or threatened by RCMP and local police since the federal election. At least 16 employees of the stores have been arrested. RCMP in British Columbia say the crackdowns will continue.
Since the election, Liberal support for the illegal dispensaries – some of which have operated for more than a decade without threats or harassment from the police – seems to have evaporated.
“Marijuana possession, production and trafficking remain illegal, officials at the federal Ministry of Public Safety confirm,” CBC News reports. “As such, any store selling marijuana is operating illegally,” said Liberal Party spokesperson Zarah Malik.
Trudeau gave the order to start the legalization process in an official Mandate Letter in November, but there have been only a few hints about the Liberal plan to get it done.
“It needs to be accomplished in an orderly manner,” Malik said.
Liberal Health Minister Jane Philpott told CBC News a government “scientists in her department” have started briefing her about marijuana, and that a task force will be created “to consult with legal authorities, public safety officials and Health Canada scientists, who already have a role in regulating products with health risks such as tobacco.”
“I think if any of your viewers, if they ask their teenage children, they can verify for them that [marijuana]is far too accessible,” Philpott said. “And obviously there’s issues around safety and concentrations that are available in certain products are very dangerous. Often the products are not pure, and that’s something that’s a serious health concern for us.”
Fears abound in the cannabis community that Trudeau and the Liberals are secretly planning a recreational marijuana distribution system similar to the corporate-friendly medical marijuana program installed by the Conservatives. The current regulations include bans on home-growing and storefront locations, and permit only government-sanctioned Licensed Producers (LPs) to send marijuana through the mail.
Fueling conspiracy theories are known ties of prominent Liberals to some of the biggest Licensed Producers and hopeful companies.
In October, the Ottawa Sun pointed out that Liberal Party Chief Financial Officer Chuck Rifici was also the co-founder and former CEO of Tweed Marijuana Inc. (recently renamed Canopy Growth Corp) and a director of Alberta-based LP Aurora Cannabis.
Kash Heed, though not a federal Liberal, was a B.C. Liberal MLA and formerly Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General for the province. He’s now a consultant for “a few Ontario and Lower Mainland companies as they vie to become licensed medical marijuana producers” according to The Metro.
Heed recently told the press, in reference to the dispensary raids, “You’re going to see more of this, and I’m not opposed to it, simply because the black market has to be cleaned up before we even launch (legal) recreational use for adults here in Canada.”
Canada Post is also flexing its enforcement muscles over marijuana, with CBC News reporting this week that the mail service seized a small package of medical pot from a sick woman who has a federal license, but didn’t order from one of the LPs.
“If marijuana is detected in a package that does not come from an authorized distributor, it is intercepted for further investigation, the postal service said.”
Though Trudeau voiced his support for an illegal Winnipeg med-pot dispensary in July, the Liberal website section on marijuana mentions increasing penalties for some pot sellers.
“We will remove marijuana consumption and incidental possession from the Criminal Code, and create new, stronger laws to punish more severely those who provide it to minors, those who operate a motor vehicle while under its influence, and those who sell it outside of the new regulatory framework,” the website states.
Vancouver is home to over 120 medical marijuana storefronts that have been mostly untouched by police. Vancouver City Council recently passed rules to govern the federally-illegal shops that would likely force the majority of them to close. Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer told the press he would follow Trudeau’s lead on marijuana. “Whatever the law of the land is, the police department will roll with it,” he said.
The new session of Parliament met for the first time yesterday, so Trudeau and the Liberals may simply have not had the time to properly address the issue. In the meantime, as police target sick and dying Canadians for arrest and prosecution and the Liberals remain silent, tensions will continue to increase between authorities and the marijuana community.