True to their word, Regina police officers carried out raids on six different marijuana dispensaries in the city Wednesday night.
Back in January, Regina Police Chief Evan Bray warned dispensaries to expect enforcement of the law that prohibits the sale of marijuana in a storefront even with a prescription. Officers followed up with letters to stores educating them on the laws and the dangers of unregulated substances, combining substances and selling to minors.
The stores raided were Best Buds Society, Greentree Regina, CannaGreen Dispensary Society, Green Street Clinic, Green Nation Dispensary and Smoke Inc.
Speaking with reporters Thursday, the police chief said officers seized thousands of dollars and hundreds of pounds of cannabis products as evidence in their ongoing investigations.
“I cannot think of a time in my career where we have given what I call ‘fair warning,’” Bray commented.
He added no further raids are expected at this time.
Police are working with federal Crown prosecutors to determine what charges may be laid pending the full investigation.
Even with legalization coming in the summer, Bray pointed out it’s never going to be as simple as just deciding to open a store to sell marijuana. The process will be regulated with tenders awarded by the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority.
“It’s about quality control. It’s about keeping the public safe, it’s about protecting the youth in our community. We’ve been very, very forthcoming on all of those reasons why,” Bray said.
Despite the raids, the chief said he was pleased with the level of compliance after the warnings.
“The vast majority either shut down their business completely, or shut down the portion of their business that was deemed to be illegal, so we are extremely happy and positive about that,” Bray said.
Best Buds owner not surprised, concerned for patients
One Regina dispensary shared their experience online.
Best Buds Society posted on their Facebook page Wednesday night that RPS officers were raiding the store and “picking their cupboards clean.”
In a second post, the business accused police of taking “patients’ meds and starting a public health crisis.” They encouraged people to show up at the store to show their support. A third post urged customers to “flood the police with complaints.”
The store opened again to the public on Thursday at noon, alerting customers it could take a while to restock.
Speaking by telephone Thursday morning, Warnecke said he wasn’t surprised by the raid, but called it concerning for his patients.
“A lot of patients have addictions problems and they come here for relief so they don’t have to go to the streets, they don’t have to use opiates,” Warnecke explained.
Warnecke said police officers seized products and told his staff they would all be charged with trafficking a controlled substance.
In February, Best Buds owner Pat Warnecke expressed his frustration over receiving a warning letter from police and vowed to keep the doors open as long as possible to help patients get access to marijuana.
He said the business was sending its own letters to local city councils and police forces across the province, asking to find a middle ground.
“There’s a lot of other options that they could do, including temporary licences or permits,” Warnecke said in a February interview with 980 CJME.
“This would allow people to continue to help people as the law is changing, and it’s changing because it’s viewed as being a violation of our charter rights and being viewed as unjust.”