Health Canada has sent out cease-and-desist letters to at least a handful of illegal marijuana dispensaries and compassion clubs across the country, warning the RCMP could raid them if they don’t shut down immediately.
The threat is the first indication the federal government is prepared to directly intervene to shut down Canada’s storefront dispensaries, most of which operate in Vancouver and Victoria, where local governments have allowed them to proliferate and have either passed bylaws to regulate them or plan to. The letter also raises the possibility Ottawa could send the Mounties into those cities, where the local police forces have largely stood by while pot shops flourished.
Health Minister Rona Ambrose pledged at the beginning of August to create a task force to actively monitor and prevent such stores from selling or advertising pot.
A letter emailed Wednesday to Vancouver’s B.C. Compassion Club Society, Canada’s oldest medical pot dispensary, threatened that the RCMP would be called in “for enforcement action as they deem necessary” if the 18-year-old operation didn’t stop immediately and submit a written statement confirming this action by Sept. 21.
“The sale and advertising of marijuana is illegal,” the letter says. “You are encouraging Canadians to engage in conduct that could also expose them to criminal liability.”
Jamie Shaw, spokeswoman for the compassion club and president of the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries, said at least three other stores in B.C. and elsewhere have received the letter, which she called puzzling, because her non-profit has long sold marijuana to its members and has never advertised. Her group has asked the government for more clarity.
“If they think we’re just going to close down in two weeks and cut off all our patients, they really don’t understand where we’re coming from,” Ms. Shaw said. “We’ve always been willing to risk arrest.”
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