From Squamish to Prince Edward Island, dispensaries are popping-up all across the country. Some with a little more luck than others. One Chilliwack dispensary, WeeMedical Marijuana Dispensary Society, continues to get hit with daily fines in an effort to have them cease operations.

Mayor Sharon Gaetz says that they are going to continue with the fines until the dispensary is closed. Thus far, the store has received a daily fine of $1000 dollars for operating without a business license.

The two landlords for the business are also allegedly receiving $500 daily fines as well, which adds up to a total of $2000 in profit for the city for every day that they layer these folks with more fines. “I can’t speculate on why they’re remaining open,.. They’re obviously not in compliance with the laws of Canada,… We cannot work together with an illegal company,” said Mayor Gaetz. Even if that company is providing a much-needed and valued service in the way of offering medicine to those who need it.

For now, the technicalities of illegality haven’t stopped dozens of dispensaries in Canada from operating successfully for many years now. Some jurisdictions simply choose not to place a preference on wasting resources over enforcing such victimless crimes. The city has sent letters to WeeMedical Marijuana Dispensary Society in order to explain the fines and they have educated the business operators that they aren’t running the business in a legal manner.

The dispensary isn’t rushing to close the doors however, and they’ve even reached out to their supporters to help them with a petition. For now, Chilliwack RCMP haven’t commented on whether they are concerned with the dispensary in question, but they did respond with a brief statement saying that businesses or individuals who are operating in contravention of the Controlled Drugs and Substance Act (CDSA) and Health Canada Regulations may be subject to investigation and criminal charges in accordance with Canadian laws.




How not to sell legal pot in Canada


The last time the Liberals proposed decriminalizing marijuana, we faced the real prospect of being penalized by our neighbours to the south. Now it seems as though our American friends have a burgeoning legal marijuana market of their own.

Recent figures show that cannabis sales in Colorado alone (which legalized the substance two years ago) topped U.S.$996.2 million ($1.37 billion) in 2015, providing the state with $135 million in taxes. Even in California, where recreational pot remains technically illegal, legal medical marijuana sales were also estimated to be worth close to $1 billion last year. A recent report from ArcView Market Research estimated that as more states reform their drug laws, the industry could be worth $22 billion nationally by 2020.

It should therefore come as no surprise that so many Canadians want a piece of what is sure to be a lucrative market, now that the Liberals have pledged to legalize marijuana and the Supreme Court of Canada has struck down the ban on medical cannabis patients growing their own bud.

Back in December, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne suggested that her government-owned liquor control board would be well suited to get into the drug trade: “It makes sense to me that the liquor distribution mechanism that we have in place — the LCBO — is very well-suited to putting in place the social responsibility aspects that would need to be in place.”

The unions representing workers in British Columbia’s liquor stores also want the ability to sell weed with their wine. “Liquor stores provide the most strictly controlled system for accessing a controlled substance, and are best suited for the retailing of non-medical marijuana. We have an effective warehousing, retail and distribution system in place, there is no need to reinvent the wheel,” said Stephanie Smith, president of the B.C. Columbia Government and Service Employees’ Union.

More recently, two large drugstore chains, London Drugs and Shoppers Drug Mart, also expressed interest in selling medical marijuana. “We believe that it would be distributed — and should be distributed — through pharmacies, where pharmacies can help guide people to use this on a medical basis,” said a representative of Vancouver-based London Drugs.

They have a point: I see no reason why people suffering from chronic pain should not be able to get their hash from the same place they buy their codeine. Yet it seems to me that the only thing worse than buying pot from a shady-looking guy in a poorly lit parking lot would be standing in a long line at the drugstore, only to be told by an overworked pharmacist that it’s going to take 20 minutes to slap a label on the dime bag hanging on the shelf behind him.

But that’s no reason not to let them try. There would surely be a benefit for many people suffering from debilitating pain to fill their prescriptions at a neighbourhood pharmacy, rather than have to wait for a licensed producer to deliver the medication, as is currently the case. If the pharmacies were able to compete with existing medical marijuana providers and dispensaries, as well as any new distributors that spring up, consumers be able to decide what works best for them.

But we all know this is not what the drugstore chains are saying when they say they would be well suited to distribute cannabis. Anyone who has ever filled a prescription in this country knows that pharmacies are not very efficient at selling things, as the system largely seems to be set up to ensure doctors have a steady supply of patients and drug companies can charge insurance companies, rather than bill people directly. This is surely the system pharmacies want to see continue as medicinal, and recreational, cannabis becomes more accessible — i.e., one designed specifically to limit competition.

Pharmacies make some sense … if you want to wait 10 minutes while someone puts a sticker on the dime bag sitting on the shelf.

And we all know that Wynne doesn’t think the LCBO should be distributing cannabis because of its ability to compete with Joe’s Pot Shop or 7-Eleven. She wants it to have a monopoly like it does with liquor sales — small businesses and consumers be damned.

Yet if our experience with alcohol has taught us anything, it’s that restricting sales to a government-run monopoly or a corporate oligopoly is not in consumers’ best interests. Indeed, the only reason provinces have so much control over alcohol sales is because of the piecemeal system of prohibition we had, in which some provinces allowed alcohol sales, but other did not. It’s a historical aberration we would be wise not to repeat.

When coming up with a system for legalizing marijuana, the federal government should follow the examples of U.S. states like Colorado and Washington, which allow private businesses to sell pot and have seen numerous innovations in what products are available to consumers. If B.C. Liquor Stores and Rexall pharmacies want to compete with them, all the better. But the system of distribution should be based on free market principles, not a restrictive, monopolistic distribution system modelled after the Soviet Union, or the LCBO.





 The Canadian Association of Pharmacy Distribution Management has hired a lobbying firm with connections to the Ontario premier to represent their interests on medical cannabis.
 According to the Office of the Integrity Commissioner, the CAPDM hired Kelly Baker from StrategyCorp Inc., a “leading government relations & advocacy, communications and management consulting firm that’s home to an accomplished team of political, public relations, and business strategists.”
Baker’s profile stated that the lobbyist most recently “served as a spokesperson to Kathleen Wynne as Premier of Ontario and as a Communications Advisor during her Leadership Campaign and two re-election campaigns.”
Baker is now representing the CAPDM to hold “discussions with government officials with regards to the development of a marijuana distribution system.”
Cannabis Friendly Business Association representative Abi Roach said it’s another example of other sectors eager to enter into the cannabis market that they see as a potential for revenue.

“Whoever has the most money to hire the guy with the most connections is going to be the winner, and it’s the sad reality for business,” sad Roach, who has several cannabis operations in Toronto.

President and CEO of the CAPDM David Johnston said, in the group’s capacity as a trade association for the pharmaceutical distribution industry, the CAPDM are “sharing with governments that if distribution of marijuana is required then there exists a safe, secure and efficient system that could be leveraged.”
Johnston said while his group is not advocating for the legalization of cannabis, it is sharing information about the system currently in place in the event that changes are made to cannabis laws.
“CAPDM is currently sharing information with members of the government on the existing pharmaceutical supply chain network, and how it could be utilized for marijuana distribution in a manner that is safe, secure and efficient, should marijuana become legalized in Canada,” Johnston said.

Roach said she’s watched over the past several months as pharmacies, liquor organizations and others have begun lobbying the government in an attempt to enter, and potentially dominate, the medical cannabis market.

“The fact that they want to shut out small business for big business is ridiculous,” she said. “If we were selling vegetables it would be the same thing — are you going to close down every vegetable market and allow Loblaws to have a monopoly on selling vegetables? No you wouldn’t, that’s insane.”

Several pharmacy groups have come out in favour of medicinal cannabis sales at their businesses, including London Drugs and Shoppers Drug Mart.
“We’ve been looking at this for a number of years now,” said London Drugs vice-president of pharmacy John Tse. “Probably five or six years ago we started looking at what happens if it becomes legal.”
In February, the Canadian Pharmacists Association issued a statement on medical cannabis sales.
“The pharmacy community is increasingly concerned about patient safety and clinical oversight regarding the use of medical marijuana,” the statement read. “As such, CPhA is currently reviewing its existing policies to ensure its policy position regarding pharmacist dispensing of medical marijuana reflects patient safety in this evolving area.”
In March, the Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada also announced they were in favour of medical cannabis sales at their member locations and said their distribution network already handles controlled substances and is therefore suited to distribute cannabis as well.
“More research is required so that Health Canada and all other stakeholders can be fully aware of the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana,” said Neighbourhood Pharmacies president Denise Carpenter.
Roach said she doesn’t expect the pharmacy industry to have much traction with legal cannabis sales if the Liberal government wants to follow through with their commitment to make it more difficult for young people to access cannabis as “children walk into pharmacies all the time.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already come out against convenience stores selling cannabis.
Roach said as more and more groups enter the market, existing cannabis businesses needs to have their positions heard or risk having their operations co-opted by other players.
“Our industry needs to realize that we’re not a fringe industry anymore, we’re the mainstream and we need to start acting like it and speaking up,” Roach said.



The operator of a new medical dispensary in Squamish hopes that a partnership between local growers and storefronts will lead by example with standards and best practices that will guide the industry.

Don Fauchon is the chairman of Cannabis Growers of Canada and co-operator of Grass Roots Medicinal, which opened recently in the B.C. town. Fauchon said opening the business has been an interesting learning experience and he’s excited by the positive feedback from the community.

“They’re really happy we’re here and looking forward to us opening,” Fauchon said. “We just hope to provide the patients with the best quality product that we can and make them comfortable when they’re in here.”

Bryan Raiser, who has operated a dispensary in Squamish since February 2015, said the town is facing the same issues as other communities across Canada, going from the restrictive policies of the Conservative government to the Liberals’ plans for legalization, and see the writing on the wall that these types of businesses serve a purpose to the town.

Fauchon said it’s the community that is most important, keeping jobs and money from the operation in town to support the town’s economy, with a focus on using local growers.

“That’s where we need to get our product to keep the jobs and the income in the local communities so it can keep supporting them like they always have, for years, and years and years now,” he said. “The growers in each little community are the ones that are supplying the best product, because we can’t get anything decent out of the LPs — that we’ve seen so far.”

The dispensary operates under best practices created by CGC, and Fauchon said any product sold at the store will have to do the same, using their production and testing standards to ensure quality.

“If you want to come in and have us take a look at your products, then you’ll have to be a member of the Growers,” Fauchon said.

Since starting the CGC over two years ago, Fauchon said the group is now ahead of the curve in developing best-practices that he expects the industry to eventually need as legalization moves forward.

“We want to set up a national association that people join and then, when a patient comes in or when we get to recreation, and they see our seal on it they know that they don’t have to worry about the product,” he said. “Just like doctors have their association and engineers and accountants — we’d like to be the one for cannabis.

“It has to be done, because the government’s going to require it.”

As the industry matures, Fauchon said it’s important that small and medium size operations are allowed to continue in business and not be pushed out by large corporate organizations.

“The big key is that the cash stays in the local communities to support the local communities,” he said. “We fought for years to build this industry up and we can’t let someone take it away from us now.”

With the Liberals now required by court order to create a new framework for medical cannabis, as well as currently crafting regulations for the recreational market, Fauchon said those already in the industry need to have their voices heard.

“It’s very important so that we can prove to local governments ‘here’s the amount of jobs and here’s the amount of money that’s coming into the local community.’ You take it out of here and lot of these small communities all across Canada are going to suffer.”

As the number of dispensaries climbs in town, Raiser said it remains to be seen what direction cannabis businesses will take.

“The future of this industry is so ridiculously up in the air,” he said. “Look at all there places you can buy alcohol, look at all the places you can buy caffeine – are dispensaries going the be the way forward?”

Earlier this month, Squamish city council discussed adopting new regulations to license dispensaries. The discussion is expected to return to council in April, after staff were directed to bring additional information on zoning and restrictions on the location of the shops.



The Canadian courts recently decided to uphold the rights of citizens by protecting and supporting the right of Canadians who are medical cannabis patients, to be able to grow their own cannabis in the comfort of their own home. Not everyone was happy about the decision. The Mayor of Delta, Lois Jackson, says that she is now worried about the growing popularity of cannabis and the possibility that she could see the emergence of growing and selling in the area.

Jackson says that she is concerned over the possibility of people growing in their own homes and she says that it could open the door up to abuses. She is worried that indoor grow-ops will spring-up and take over the area. “There’s so many aspects of this possible legalization and we really don’t know what it’s going to look like,” said Jackson. Delta has already passed regulations that prohibit medical marijuana facilities in all of its zones, and this includes agricultural.

Although, when it comes to new ones being considered under the (supposedly) coming market, approval for those would be considered on a case-by-case basis. Only two applications have been approved within industrial zones. Jackson says that when it comes to the priority of what she wants grown on the land in Delta, she says it isn’t cannabis. “We do not want it grown on the agricultural lands and taking up agricultural land from food production,” she says. “We have to be careful what we create,” she warns, and insists that we should sit by and wait for the alcohol-like centralized market to roll out once the Liberals have established their regulatory method of how cannabis can be distributed.





Cannabis Growers of Canada will be hosting a founding meeting of the Victoria Chapter next month in the capital of B.C. CGC members include a wide variety of cannabis businesses such as dispensaries, extractors, glass-makers and many others.

CGC feels that right now it’s more important than ever for the cannabis business community to be united with one voice at all levels of government.

There will be an information session as well as a presentation by Ian Dawkins, CGC executive director. More details on the meeting below:

Wednesday April 6, 2016 at 7:30pm

James Bay Community School Centre

140 Oswego St

Victoria, BC

Specific room still TBA

Please RSVP to confirm attendance by April 3, 2016



Danielle is a Toronto mother of three who opened up her own medical cannabis shop in the city. Her location is very discreet when compared to most other dispensaries. It is located between a bar and a flower shop, it has no neon signs, and the name ‘The Calyx Wellness Centre’ doesn’t give much indication that cannabis is sold there.

The quiet location is exactly how she prefers it. She says that “I don’t feel like it should be exposed. It’s still not widely accepted. It’s a gray area. There’s also quite a bit of a stigma to it. So it was important to me, when branding this that even our symbol, the calyx, resembles something you would see at a holistic centre. We’re not about being out there and bringing in the most business. There’s something to being discreet and quiet. A lot of people may be taking medical marijuana for whatever reason but they don’t want everybody to know.”

There are over 50 cannabis dispensaries in the city, but Danielle hopes to create a brand of her own, by designing her store to look more like a holistic spa rather than a cannabis dispensary. “When you walk in you feel like you’re walking into a spa,” she says.

Though still technically illegal in Toronto, dispensaries continue to pop up with no signs of slowing down. A recent poll shows that the majority of Toronto voters think that the medical cannabis dispensaries should be allowed to stay open in the city, and this supports the trend as well.