On Wednesday, Mar. 28, Regina Police raided six local cannabis businesses simultaneously which resulted in the seizure of thousands of dollars and hundreds of pounds of product, in addition to temporary arrests. Charges are also expected to be laid by the end of the investigation.
The affected businesses are Best Buds Society, Greentree Regina, CannaGreen Dispensary Society, Green Street Clinic, Green Nation Dispensary and Smoke Inc.
“Business owners and landlords who knew the pot sales were happening were the focus of the raids and arrests, rather than employees,” said Regina Police Chief Evan Bray, according to CBC, but this stands in contrast to what Pat Warnecke, the owner of Best Buds Society, told CMJE Newswhen he said, “police officers seized products and told staff they would all be charged with trafficking a controlled substance”.
At least the Regina Police seem to be aiming for a more common sense approach than Ontario, which has seen numerous front level budtenders being charged, but the continuing enforcement of prohibitionist policies is still a major step backwards.
The raids are the culmination of a public education campaign that began in January when Regina Police Chief Evan Bray held a news conference where he said that selling cannabis at storefronts is illegal, and those caught doing it could face legal consequences.
This was followed by a dedicated cannabis page on the Regina Police website and letters being sent to the operators and landowners of dispensaries warning them that what they were doing was illegal.
When Bray told CBC that, “A lot of the activity that was happening in these locations, even after legalization, won’t be legal and won’t be allowed to happen: selling to youth, selling edibles“, it was a form of misdirection by comparing apples-to-oranges.
Selling cannabis to youth will not be tolerated by any responsible dispensary owner, and practically all dispensaries across Canada require ID to prove that you’re over 19 because business owners realize that ‘protecting the children’ is one of the biggest mantras of government and law enforcement when it comes to cannabis, so it makes sense to do ID checks proactively in order to avoid further scrutiny and the risk of being raided.
When it comes to edibles, he’s flat-out wrong because although they won’t be legal by this year, edibles are due to be regulated by 2019.
Where do we go now?
The continued enforcement of dispensaries ignores the very real issues of access and harm reduction because if these places close down, where are people supposed to go?
Prohibition doesn’t work and it never has, and by raiding these businesses and trying to force them to close down, the police will ultimately end up throwing the patients back out on the streets to get their medicine.
As Best Buds Society owner Pat Warnecke said, some of his patients have cancer, epilepsy, and other serious conditions and they need their medicine to function, while others use cannabis as a method of harm reduction because it helps keep them off of opiates. That is why he’s already open and back in business in open defiance of the police the very next day after getting raided.