Cannabis Life Network spoke with Pat Warnecke, the owner of Saskatchewan-based medical dispensary Best Buds Society on June 22, a day after he turned himself into police after finding out there was a warrant out for his arrest.

Pat Warnecke told us about his shock upon finding his face on the front page; the shadiness of Saskatchewan’s dispensary license lottery where people won multiple licenses (the chances of which were 1 in millions!); the shadowy billionaire family trying to control Saskatchewan’s cannabis industry; setting up dispensaries on First Nations’ land; why Saskatchewan wants to destroy its homegrown cannabis industry; and so much more.

**Edited for length and clarity.

Cannabis Life Network: How did you feel when you learned there was a warrant out for your arrest?

Pat Warnecke: It was quite a stunt that the RPS (Regina Police Service) pulled here. We’d been in constant contact for almost two weeks with the RPS and Crown prosecutor through our lawyer.

On Wednesday morning (June 20), the Crown prosecutor gave our lawyer 3 options:

  • come in Thursday (June 21)
  • (Friday [June 22)
  • June 26th.”

Our lawyers chose Thursday, June 21, but the arrest warrant went out later that day. At the time, I was out in BC because we’re moving there.

I don’t know if the Regina Police heard or what because they put out that warrant after we made a deal with the Crown prosecutor.

So then reporter Arthur White-Crummy went back to the Crown prosecutor and asked if there was any reason for this and if we were being kept in custody and the Crown prosecutor said no, they wouldn’t be keeping us because there was no reason to, and they actually dropped all of our conditions and released us the same day!

So I’m literally back at the Best Buds in Regina right now for the very first time since the original raids back in March!

Why was your wife charged?

They charged my wife with the same charges that I’m facing, including trafficking, and they’re basing all of that off the fact that she has shares in the company!

They’re basically charging her for her association with me, since trafficking literally means the exchange of funds for product and so on. You need proof of something exchanging hands and not just her name on a piece of paper.

My wife has never been charged with anything before. It’s obviously a strong-arm approach.

Pat and his wife turning themselves in on June 21, 2018. Photo courtesy of Regina Leader Post. Pat and his wife turning themselves in to Regina police on June 21, 2018. Photo courtesy of Regina Leader Post.

The police were very public in publishing your names.

Oh yeah. It’s pretty heavy-handed. We were actually gone the first month after the original raids happened back in March, and when we came back on Easter night, our door was kicked in.

The thing about the house we were staying at is we had just moved there two months before. We had no visitors and no bills going there, no nothing. It was a friend’s place and there was no way for police to know we were there because there was nothing to tie us to that place- unless they surveilled us.

What can you tell us about Saskatchewan’s lottery process for cannabis stores?

Well, 33% of the available licenses went to one of five companies.

What happened was there were 1500 applications, with 51 licenses to give out, and they were divided into zones.

There were over 250 applications we can attest came from grassroots and people in the cannabis industry, which means there was a 1 in 6 chance of at least one of us getting a license- but not one person from the cannabis community won!

It’s pretty miraculous.

In the same breath, Canopy Growth got 5 licenses while another group got four, another got three, a few groups got 2, and then a married couple got a pair of licenses, too.

One of the people that got two licenses is a lawyer from out-of-province, and many license winners have political ties.

What were the chances of winning multiple licenses?

There was a statistics professor from the University of Regina who was so compelled by this story that he did the math.

He said the probability of one company getting five licenses was almost 1 in 15 million!

It was 1 in 1.5 million to get 4, and even getting two was like a 1 in 15,000 chance- but there were 4 people who got just that.

The lottery wasn’t videotaped, the ministers in charge were not present, and there were no witnesses. There was definitely some shady stuff going on.

You mentioned you’re in the process of moving to BC?

I am.

I’m working with a few different groups right now, like the Cannabis Growers of Canada and a lot of First Nations. I’m Metis myself and I’m on the local council.

We’ve linked up with a lot of local Indigenous groups and we’re trying to empower them to take their own approach to cannabis legalization.

What we’re doing is putting a dispensary around each big city in Saskatchewan on First Nations land, meaning they will be fighting the government, and they will stand their ground.

They’re going to sell edibles, they’re going to sell extracts, and they’re going to sell craft cannabis…. and we’re going to help them.

But I can’t really be in Saskatchewan because I’m kind of “public enemy no. 1”.

Next time in court, the police told me they’d be applying for a gag order on us! But we’re going to keep on being vocal, and I can do that from another province.

In July I’ve got some major meetings with Cannabis Growers of Canada and Dr. Hornby, who’s helping us with research and development as we try to show how cannabis as a harm reduction approach can help First Nations. We’ve got a lot of First nations buying into it from my contacts out here in Saskatchewan to Edmonton and Calgary, to Vancouver Island and central BC as well.

We’re trying to line up this conglomerate group of craft cannabis growers and First Nations to work together and support each other.

But to do my job I don’t have to be in Regina- it’s kind of the worst place to be right now.

Pat and friends at Susnet Beach for Vancouver's 420 festival. Photo courtesy of Best Buds Society's Instagram. Pat and friends at Sunset Beach for Vancouver’s 420 festival. Photo courtesy of Best Buds Society’s Instagram.

You said the police are applying for a gag order?

The police told me they’re applying for a gag order, and they even applied to hold us until trial, but the Crown prosecutor didn’t see it the same way because they dropped all of our conditions.

The police are fighting us tooth and nail because we’ve been very vocal and we have a lot of public support.

We have over 10,000 patients in Saskatchewan and we have 3 stores- two in Saskatoon and one in Regina- and our Regina store is the one being picked on. Meanwhile, Saskatoon is allowing us to exist- we haven’t even received a letter to shut down in Saskatoon or anything like that so we can keep on serving patients there.

Pretty much everywhere but Regina is allowing dispensaries to exist. Regina is going so hard because it’s the political center, and there’s a lot of money here from people like the billionaire Drummond family.

Can you tell me more about the billionaire Drummond family and their involvement?

They’re basically the devils in disguise for the cannabis industry right now. They’re a local Regina family and they’re billionaires- one of Regina’s richest families. They’re former owners of the Phoenix Coyotes, they own the Phoenix Cardinals, the Regina Pats, and they’ve got big shares in Sask Energy.

They’re also major shareholders in Tokyo Smoke, Hiku, Aphria, and Aurora.

Recently, they came to me as we’re both Regina guys, and they actually funded the study that the Saskatchewan government used to create its cannabis policy, and I saw them there, sitting with the government as the announcements were made- so don’t kid yourself about who’s going to have the licenses and distribution in Saskatchewan.

The Drummonds were also involved in the hostile takeover of CanniMed when Aurora acquired them.

They actually phoned me to try and give them some credibility and props and I was like “What are you doing?”

What kind of relationship does the Drummond family have with the Regina authorities?

At the end of March, when all the shit was going down with the dispensary raids, Regina Police Chief Bray couldn’t be contacted for 5 days- no public releases or anything else- and during those five days,

I heard from a very good source that works for a Drummond-owned organization that the police chief was down in Phoenix having drinks on the deck with Gary Drummond!

I actually have a PI working on it and I’ve given that lead to a few journalists and I want them to start digging into that and start asking questions.

It goes pretty deep. We’ve got billionaires here literally trying to take over the industry with how much they’ve invested and what they’re trying to do with it.

Now they’re going after me because I know the truth.

That’s all there is.

We’ve been a solid source here for craft, quality cannabis and we’ve been doing things right for years and we haven’t had a problem.

All of a sudden they’re saying it’s fentanyl-laced and all this other crazy stuff and nothing has been substantiated.

Photo courtesy of Weedmaps. Best Buds Society in Regina. Photo courtesy of Weedmaps.

Will Best Buds Society stay open?

We are, but we’re sticking to delivery. I’m in the Regina office right now, and we’ve just been doing free consultations and signing people up to the online site.

We’re staying open to hopefully get that harm reduction R and D with the doctor going so we can keep fighting.

Our office is two blocks from the worst neighbourhood in Canada for violent crime, which is north-central Regina, and we’re buying time with the shop until we can get that R and D license, and in conjunction, we’re trying to get those reserve stores going so we can help out the people in the community here, too.

I didn’t realize how much is going on behind the scenes.

It’s crazy out here, and we’ve been a big source, for a long time, for cannabis knowledge and everything.

Andrew Scheer, the leader of the Conservative Party, he’s from Regina, and his godson was one of the first patients that we ever helped out, and the dad, who is one of Andrew’s best friends, has been very loyal to us and a big supporter of ours.

Andrew has even been helping us behind the scenes.

We’ve had Cathay Wagantall, a Conservative MP, who continuously sends us people and patients and we’ve been feeding her a lot of ammo and questions to start asking during Question Period.

We have political connections, we’ve been teaching First Nations, we’ve taught health regents, full towns and cities, hospitals, and doctor’s groups on our own dime about cannabis, and all of a sudden, the police don’t want us around- and not only do they not want us around, they’re going to start making up shit and try to jail us even when the Crown prosecutor doesn’t want to do it that way.

What are the next steps in the process?

Like I said, we have the R and D and we have the injunction application in and I’m literally talking to Dr. Hornby after we talk and we’re taking it to the next level.

We’re working with the First Nations and as they vote on it we’ll be starting up stores as soon as possible so First Nations in Saskatchewan can open up and Best Buds will be helping in conjunction with that as well.

We’re sticking with the fight and that’s why we need people to know what’s going on here. We need some exposure because they’re trying to run one hell of a regime here in literally one of the worst provinces for access to cannabis and one of the worst problems with alcoholism and one of the worst smoking rates around, and the only people who are getting rich off this are the Saskatchewan Party, other politicians and people who already have a lot of money.

Two of the people that won licenses in the lottery draw are lawyers that are actively fighting against cannabis in court!

That’s what’s going on here. It’s so bad right now!

Is it true that anybody with ties to cannabis was basically blacklisted from the licensing process?

Yup. They literally tried to genocide the cannabis industry here in Saskatchewan, pretty much.

Anything with our names on it or people from the cannabis industry’s name on it didn’t get accepted.

We had this happen with our partner in Saskatoon. She put in 17 applications with her and her family’s names on it, and anything that had her or her husband’s name on it were rejected but anything with her other family member’s names on it was allowed through to the second stage of the process.

And it was the exact same application for each!

The government didn’t say anywhere in the application process that they wouldn’t accept you or it wouldn’t happen if you had anything to do with cannabis, but they basically said, Fuck off.

best buds 5

It must have been devastating for the people who built it and have been doing it for decades.

It’s crushing people here.

Patients are so distraught because they have no idea what they’re going to do.

A 23-year-old girl, a University of Saskatchewan student, won a license but she really has nothing to do with cannabis! While she might be a patient, she’s never really been in the industry- and she’s ok to get a license?

You have other people that have already said publicly that they won’t even have their stores ready.

It’s a shit show and it’s going to put a really bad name on cannabis at the end of the day and I think that’s what they want, to make it as bad as possible.

Here’s an example.

There were 24 dispensaries in Regina and they shut down 23 of us. Only one dispensary has remained open, and it’s the only place where they don’t know their strains, which are garbage. They use their bare hands to pick up buds and they sell to everybody.

I think authorities are going to use them to make the whole industry look bad, that’s the underlying thing they’re trying to pull off.

That dispensary is the only one that the police haven’t touched and either there’s something crazy going on like they’re on the take or they just want to use them as an example, but either way, it’s bad for the cannabis industry.

So it might just be a propaganda play?

That’s exactly it. Why did they shut down all the guys that have proven publicly that they only help patients out but the guys that sell to everybody, and they sell junk, I mean… it’s bad.

Those guys are skuzzy, and inside it’s basically just a folding table that they use… I’m one for scruples and standards when it comes to dispensaries and anyone with those were shut down.

Is Best Buds medicinal and membership only?

That’s all we’ve done. We don’t do the recreational side at all.

best buds saskatchewan Wee Man chilling on the couch. Photo courtesy of Best Bud Society’s Facebook page.

Do you have any plans to move into the recreational market?

That’s what this application was for but no, they didn’t let us in, but we’re happy helping patients because we’re specialized in that and we have the knowledge.

But with the First Nations, we’ll definitely help them with whatever their goals are. If they want to do medical and recreational, we’ll facilitate that.

What we’re trying to do is trying to set them up to grow their own and use craft cannabis guys and some of the biggest names in the industry to help them develop their own policies that are in line with Health Canada, except for the minor changes of not giving the plants a bunch of poisons and irradiating the cannabis.

We’re trying to work with the Craft Growers of Canada and line up with the First Nations to show the country why it’s better to do it this way, and if they do have sovereignty they’ll be allowed to do it and if not, there will be another fight on their hands.

The whole issue about opening dispensaries on native land would be a very interesting court battle.

It’s going to happen.

One injunction being filed on our behalf is actually based on Metis rights, so there will be a few based on rights coming up and it will be interesting.

We’re not going to roll over, that’s for sure.

Was there anything else that you’d like to add?

I just want to let people in other parts of the country know what’s going on.

I’ve seen it from coast to coast, and while I love the BC scene because that’s where a lot of my colleagues are, a lot of times they don’t realize what’s going on out here because they’re so involved in their own local scene.

They don’t see how much the rest of us are struggling in Saskatchewan and Manitoba and it’s really like a cannabis genocide right now.

And yet they call it legalization while this is all still happening.

Yeah. Regina has had the worst crime rate in the damn country for a long time, especially this neighbourhood out here by my dispensary, and the police are putting all this time and resources towards busting a bunch of dispensaries that were making it better.

The crime rate shot up 17% in the first month after the dispensary crackdown and there was a big public outcry wondering “why did it happen?” and we all know why, but they won’t admit it.

We know cannabis can help and to take people like us and put our pictures on the front page while there are meth dealers and a lot worse going on… It’s disgusting and it hurts the Canadian law system and I appreciate any efforts to get the word out on what is actually happening.

Featured image courtesy of Regina Leader Post.

Sources

Regina Leader Post: Best Buds Society owner turns himself in to Regina police.

Regina Leader Post: Unlucky cannabis applicants critical of Sask. government’s lottery process.