Vernon dispensaries, threatened by the RCMP that their operations will be raided, are organizing a rally to show how vital their services are to the city’s patients.

MMJ Total Health co-owner Jeff Gaudette said the town’s five dispensaries have responded to police threats by organizing a system of randomly changing hours of operation to make it more difficult for authorities to raid them.

“The stores are not closed, they’re just not offering sales. So they’re open as a resource centre to talk to patients and for counselling,” said Gaudette. “The compassion is still there that we’re able to help these people with medicine but we also want to raise awareness that if the patients don’t get vocal – we won’t be able to help them.”

Gaudette said the dispensaries want to make people realize the scenario that would exist if they were all shut down and patients no longer had access to medicinal cannabis.

“Realistically, if our doors shut, people will die and we’re trying to raise that awareness,” Gaudette said.

Gaudette said dispensaries, patients and Vernon residents will be participating in a patient access walk this Friday at noon. The group will march through town on their way to city hall.

“It’s going to be a professional, peaceful march and we want to talk to city council,” Gaudette said.

The group hopes to spark legal change that will get a moratorium filed allowing them to continue operation until the federal government, that has slowly begun to work on cannabis legalization, moves further with regulation. Eventually, Gaudette said, he would like to see an injunction that stops police from raiding dispensaries  across the country, altogether.

According to Gaudette, change needs to be pushed for by local governments, many of which have publicly supported dispensaries while RCMP continue to shut them down.

“The police budgets are set by the cities. If the city can provide little to no budget for enforcement or raids, then there’s no funds for them,” Gaudette said.

He said that, in the past, RCMP have disclosed each raided dispensary costs between $32,000 – $35,000, money Gaudette thinks could be better spent.

“They want to raid five dispensaries and spend $150,000?” Gaudette said. “I think that $150,000 can be better spent opening up a rec centre or pool, or something more productive to everyone in the city.”

“They’ve spent millions of dollars trying to do this and every single year we see the same thing – raid, charges dropped, raid, charges dropped. Someone has to step in and draw the line and say ‘look, we’re wasting money here’ — no one’s going to court and the charges aren’t sticking, someone needs to get smart and realize – it’s broken.”

More information about the Friday event and how to get involved is available on all of the local dispensaries’ social media pages.