Grey area leads to green rush: Dozens of Vancouver dispensaries test limits of Canada’s pot laws

Grey area leads to green rush: Dozens of Vancouver dispensaries test limits of Canada’s pot laws

A woman stands outside Vancouver’s Canna Clinic, offering passersby free in-house medical consultations. One of Vancouver’s 30-plus marijuana dispensaries, many of which have opened in only the last 12 months, Canna Clinic sells pot-infused ketchup, olive oil and brownies, as well as pre-rolled blunts and two dozen strains of pure B.C. Bud.The only catch is that prospective buyers have to present photo I.D., sign a form pledging not to share, and receive a diagnosis from an onsite naturopath confirming they have any ailment ranging from cancer to ADHD to sleep disorders.“I’m just in a lot of pain, you know,” one man, who entered after being assured by staff that the certification process would only take 10 minutes, joked to the assembled patients as he lined up for registration forms.According to Health Canada, the only legal way to get marijuana is to get a prescription from a doctor or nurse practitioner, and choose from one of 13 government-licensed producers for carefully regulated doses via Canada Post.But the rest of Canada is not Vancouver, where a legal grey area is ushering in an unprecedented boom in storefront medical marijuana dispensaries and there are now almost as many dispensaries as McDonalds.Vancouverites can now buy medical pot out of vending machines, drink medical pot smoothies, take in a live concert over a medical cannabis vaporizer and buy virtually unlimited quantities of medical weed for increasingly mild medical ailments.But as the West Coast metropolis tests the most extreme limits of what constitutes medical marijuana, however, the city’s marijuana old guard worries it may be going too far.On Monday, Vancouverites witnessed the rare phenomenon of a pot dispensary being raided by police. At 10 a.m., officers with the Vancouver Police Drug Squad entered Weeds Glass and Gifts on Kingsway for what they called “an active drug investigation.”“Police felt the business was operating in an unsafe manner,” read a Monday statement, adding “police will be recommending charges.”It was the first police raid against a Vancouver dispensary in months, and the most public shakeup of what, until then, had been a meteoric growth in new retail shops selling medical cannabis.As recently as the 2010 Olympics, Vancouver only counted a handful of subdued clinical-looking marijuana dispensaries selling pot to carefully screened lists of patients who had proven a serious need to use the drug for pain relief.Now, thanks largely to the laissez-faire reaction of both police and the Vancouver citizenry, the city counts more than 35 locations, and virtually every one of those is laying plans to expand further.“There’s going to be 200 dispensaries this time next year if nothing changes,” said Dana Larsen, an early entrant into the dispensary market and vice president with the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries (CAMCD).“I don’t want to see anybody getting raided or arrested or put in jail for selling marijuana, but if the city doesn’t get a hold on it and offer some kind of licensing, then we’re just going to see open marijuana selling,” he said, adding “and that might be a good thing.”Still, with every week yielding new pop-up dispensaries, he said he fears the industry may be on course for a crackdown.“I expect there to be some kind of pushback, I just hope it’s not too severe of a backlash and that the dispensaries operating at a high standard are left alone,” he said.It is why CAMCD has drafted detailed certification standards to, as Mr. Larsen puts it, “help differentiate the stricter dispensaries from the loosey-goosey type places.”Among newer entrants to the dispensary trade, standards are indeed beginning to slip. Many new locations require nothing more than a signed form from a naturopath or a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine, and many of those offer convenient, in-house diagnosis. The Facebook page of Vancouver dispensary iMedikate, for instance, boasts “Many Get Their Medical Marijuana License In JUST ONE VISIT!”“It’s just a lot of unprofessional people getting up in the morning and thinking they can open a dispensary — and they’re destroying other compassion clubs,” said a supervisor with Nation’s Best Weeds Society, not to be confused with Weeds Glass and Gifts.As the operators of Jim’s Weeds Lounge, Nation’s Best Weeds does not exactly exude a clinical air. Painted bright green, its East Hastings location has a neon sign of a pot leaf in the front window and an awning with the word “Weeds” spelled out in graffiti script.Nevertheless, the society maintains relatively strict criteria on which patients become certified to buy. Their naturopath keeps appointments to a minimum of 15 minutes to weed out bogus medical claimants, and patients are issued with a laminated photo I.D. to ensure that it cannot be passed around among friends.“We do reject people; if they’re asking questions that are not related to the medical marijuana, they’re asked to leave,” said the supervisor.source:

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