Nanaimo Dispensaries Brace for Police Raids as Shutdown Deadline Expires

With the deadline from RCMP for Nanaimo dispensaries to close coming into effect today, owners are still standing firm that they will stay open.

Nanaimo Cannabis Coalition spokesperson Matthew O’Donnell said business owners are committed to providing patients with their medicine and the majority have chosen not to close by the end of the day.

RCMP warned they would raid all 10 of the city’s dispensaries if they don’t comply with their orders to shut down, and will arrest any staff or customers in the storefronts.

When contacted by Cannabis in Canada, Nanaimo RCMP Constable Gary O’Brien said “We don’t comment on ongoing cases.” But there are unconfirmed reports police are not planning to take any action today.

The Coalition’s requests for support from government have been met with sympathy, but few have offered to intervene on their behalf. At a city council meeting earlier this week, the group asked for a letter to be sent to the RCMP requesting a “cooling-down” period to delay the police raids. City council chose to not write the letter.

Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Sheila Malcolmson questioned the timing of the police action and has asked for a briefing from the Nanaimo RCMP and a meeting with Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.

“If the law is about to change … this seems an unfortunate time to go ahead and enforce the Conservative government rules,” Malcolmson said. “I am concerned this is alarming medical marijuana patients unnecessarily and it may be using public enforcement resources in an inefficient way.”

The RCMP have given no additional details on why they have targeted the dispensaries other than to say they are simply following the law, regardless of the federal government’s plans to legalize cannabis.

Some dispensary owners are looking for someone else to blame for what’s happening.

Manager of Mid-Island Health and Wellness Brandy Cavanagh said it was dispensaries that moved into Nanaimo after being forced out by regulation in Vancouver that have caused the problems.

Cavanagh said these dispensaries have brought negative attention to other businesses by allowing smoking on site or trading cannabis for cans of food.

The RCMP have not indicated when raids will begin, but the community expects them to potentially begin today or tomorrow.