After serving with law enforcement for 30 years, Harold McNeill said the latest action from authorities against the province’s cannabis industry still came as a surprise.

“This is way over the top,” said McNeill, who worked with the Oak Bay Police Department as a detective sergeant until 1994. “Those arrests were completely out of line.”

Within the past months, RCMP have moved against dispensaries in Nanaimo, Mission and Vernon, with a business in Sechelt also targeted.

“Those people are just ordinary people, they’re not drug dealers,” McNeill said of the staff and patients arrested during the raids. “They were charged with possession with the purpose of trafficking which, under some circumstances, carries a life sentence — that’s a major offence to be charged with.”

McNeill said he’s monitored the ongoing situation and said it’s unusual compared to his experience when he worked as part of the drug squad, where RCMP officers would be happy to talk about busts.

“This year is different, they don’t want to say anything about it,” McNeill said. “I can not imagine the inspector ordered the raids out of Nanaimo without receiving a direct order from some higher level.”

 McNeill said he suspected the direction was a holdover from the previous Conservative government.

“The police have been enforcing this for so long and I think there’s a residual part of the police that are saying ‘Bullshit, we’d rather lock them up,’” McNeill said.

McNeill clarified that it’s not the majority of the RCMP that feel that way, but a few leaders that have been there for a long time.

“When I’ve read what the [RCMP] commissioner has been doing these last few years, he was in heaven under a Conservative government,” said McNeill. “Now he’s caught with a government that’s telling him to back off.”

“My stance is that he’s an extremely conservative man, who’s getting in his digs until he can no longer do it.”

Despite some dispensary operators speculating that the RCMP are raiding with increased frequency due to trying to maintain their budget for next year, McNeill said he doesn’t subscribe to that idea.

“I think it’s more likely that it’s an ideological move from senior ranks,” McNeill said. “Why else would somebody do something thats clearly out of step with where we’re going?”

“We’re running around, wasting millions,” McNeill said. “You’re having no effect other than bulking up your organization and its budget and its authority – that’s all you’re doing.”

With the Liberals now in power, McNeill said he expects to see a change in direction for police, but it will take time.

“It’s not an easy change, you don’t change a bill that’s been there for 100 years, you don’t change it overnight,” he said.

McNeill said immediate options, such as placing a moratorium on new charges, are possible but could become complicated dealing with past criminal convictions.

“What makes the problem is that we still have hundreds of people serving time,” McNeill said. “There’s people under charges under that act, you’ve got start dealing with that.”

“Marijuana should have never been under the Narcotic Control Act,” McNeill said “At a time when our country is clearly changing, it would have changed by now had it not been for a government that was dead set against any drugs of any kind, we’d have had that change five years ago.”

You can read more from McNeill here.