City council heard once again from a group calling for a medical marijuana dispensary in Saskatoon.
Members of the Saskatchewan Compassion Club addressed a meeting of the city’s planning, development and community services committee Monday morning.
Among them was Murray Nichol, who said he treats sleep and anxiety disorders using edible cannabis products. He said the federal mail-order system doesn’t make those products available, forcing him to purchase them illegally.
“Without cannabis medicine on those nights, there is no sleep… it’s just night time. With cannabis medicine you just go to sleep. And it sounds so stupid because we’ve been told our whole lives that it’s just recreational, but it works,” he said.
Nichol had difficulty getting through his five-minute address to the committee, frequently having to pause and fight his way through tears. Talking to reporters after the meeting, he said he came to speak on behalf of people far sicker than him who rely on medical cannabis.
“Nobody should have to smoke a joint to get their relief. That’s not what anyone wants,” he said.
Nichol said he wants sick people to be able to simply purchase things like edible cannabis, or topical creams and tinctures from a dispensary — rather than make them themselves.
“Right now, there is no place for them to purchase edibles anywhere at all. So you’re going to tell someone who has cancer that they need to process their own medication? It doesn’t make sense,” he said.
Also present was Mark Hauk. As the operator of the Saskatchewan Compassion Club’s dispensary, he was charged with several drug offences stemming from a police raid on the 2nd Avenue storefront back in 2015.
Hauk still faces charges related to selling dried cannabis and possessing the proceeds of crime. He had counts related to selling cannabis derivatives like oils and edibles dismissed on the grounds that access to those medications is protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
He said he’s tired of hearing the phrase ‘the law is the law’ from the mayor, council and city police when it comes to the dispensary issue.
“I’m not really understanding what it is they’re hanging on to by repeating that mantra,” he said, pointing to the charges he had thrown out as an example of the shifting positions on medical marijuana.
“If we’re going to reference the current law as it stands today, I think that it’s very important in the same sentence to reference the Charter of Rights. (It’s) just as important as the federal regulations as they are written today,” he said.
The city’s lawyer has spelled out in a report to council that allowing a dispensary would be violating federal law.
Councillor Troy Davies said he doesn’t see much appetite among the mayor or council to go against Ottawa. He said he would be worried about setting a precedent by giving a business a license to operate outside the law.
He acknowledged that the current system isn’t working for many sick people.
“It was pretty emotional to see those people, and I know they’re very upset. And I know there’s a lot of things going on behind-the-scenes here,” he said.
But still, Davies said there’s not much more for the city to do except wait for the drug laws to change.
“If the federal government does step up and make some changes, I’ll be the first one saying let’s get (dispensary regulations) back to council and make some changes as quick as possible,” he said.