Vancouver Police Release Informal Guidelines For “Illegal” Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

CANNABIS CULTURE – The Vancouver Police Department has released an informal set of “common sense” guidelines for the city’s “illegal” medical marijuana dispensaries in the wake of several recent raids.

“There are no specific written rules or checklist, but these businesses should use some basic common sense,” VPD Constable Brian Montague told Cannabis Culture. “Don’t market to children. Don’t sell to children. Don’t create fire hazards. Don’t operate in a manner that clearly puts financial gain ahead of public safety or providing any type of medical service.”

The VPD’s official-unofficial protocol comes in the form of an email to Cannabis Culture in response to questions about yesterday’s raid on Budzilla, a medical dispensary and manufacturer of cannabis edibles and concentrates located on Kingsway Steet.

“Simply put, they are all illegal.” Montague said, “None of them are operating with a business license and all are operating contrary to criminal law. If you operate an illegal business or participate in illegal behavior, you run the risk of unwanted police attention and run the risk of arrest. That said, the VPD has a priority based approach to policing and these shops are, for the most part, a lower priority for our limited resources. That does not mean that one of these businesses can’t become a priority if public safety becomes a concern.”

The raid on Budzilla comes a month after the closure of Jim’s Weeds Lounge on Hastings Street due to multiple police raids.

“We do not want to prevent someone from getting any form of medical care they may require,” Montague said, “but we have a duty to the public to ensure public safety is a priority. With about 45 of these shops operating in the city we have only taken enforcement action on a very small number of them. There is a reason those businesses were targeted for enforcement while others have not.”

Compassion clubs and med-pot dispensaries, though technically illegal, have existed in Vancouver for more than a decade. Police and City Council members have been quoted in the press criticizing federal government policies for interfering with the rights of patients to access medicine and pledging to leave dispensaries alone, as long as they are providing marijuana for medical use.

Kirk Tousaw, an attorney in a ongoing battle with B.C. Courts and the federal government over the illegality of medical marijuana extracts and edibles, told Cannabis Culture he thought the guidelines “make sense.”

“They’ve indicated that the enforcement of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act against medical cannabis dispensaries is a low priority, as it should be.” Tousaw said. “There are certain common sense rules that dispensaries should follow to minimize the risk of unwanted and unwarranted law enforcement activity and it’s really advice that I often talk to my clients about.”

Tousaw was the lawyer for Owen Smith – a baker who was arrested and charged for making medical marijuana goodies – in a pivotal case decided in August by the B.C. Court of Appeal. The court found that current medical marijuana laws banning edibles are unconstitutional and gave the government a year to revise them.

In a VPD press release issued after yesterday’s raid on Budzilla, police said they found “products comprised of dry marijuana and THC-infused edibles, including candy and cookies,” and that the “appearance and packaging of many of these items could be potentially very appealing to children.”

Photos provided with the VPD press release show cookies and lollypops packaged in clear baggies with small stickers featuring a drawing of what looks like Godzilla. Police did not indicate whether they intend to target or raid other dispensaries selling cookies or lollypops.

Canada’s tumultuous medical marijuana landscape continues to change thanks to new regulations from the federal Conservatives and court battles waged in response, leaving many patients confused.

We at Cannabis Culture are scratching our heads wondering if today’s announcement by the VPD clears things up or leads to more unanswered questions.

Calls to Budzilla from Cannabis Culture were not answered. Stay tuned for updates on this story.

Jeremiah Vandermeer is editor of Cannabis Culture & Pot TV. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.