WATCH ABOVE: More than 1,000 medicinal marijuana users in Edmonton are scrambling to find their medicine after a dispensary was raided. Fletcher Kent explains.
EDMONTON – Users of medical marijuana are upset over a drug bust in Edmonton last week in which police raided a dispensary and charged the family that operates it.
The owners claim, up until last week, police left them alone. On Wednesday morning, that changed. ALERT’s Green Team seized all marijuana products from the Mobile Access Compassionate Resources Organization Society (MACROS).
The non-profit group sold medical marijuana to people who have a prescription. It served more than 1,000 clients.
“We always knew there was a possibility of law enforcement coming in because we are an illegal entity,” said Aaron Bott, who runs MACROS with his mother and stepfather. “But we weren’t prepared to be arrested like a common criminal.”
The dispensary had been operating in Edmonton for 11 years prior to the bust and is the only place of its kind in the city.
Bott faces one drug-related charge while his mother and stepfather face five charges each. Bott says because of mandatory minimum sentences, all three face at least six months behind bars if convicted.
“Everybody says we’re in the illegal grey area.”
It may be legal for customers to have marijuana but it’s illegal to operate such a shop. In some communities, police have looked the other way. Bott and users who relied on his products say they wish law enforcement in Edmonton would have looked the other way as well.
“Shutting down a Rexall pharmacy… why would they do that? And to me, this is no different. This was my pharmacy to go to,” said Ryan Wolff, a medicinal marijuana user.
Wolff uses prescribed marijuana to deal with chronic pain. Now, he’ll have to order it through the mail.
“I’m stuck with Saskatchewan or B.C. That’s my closest options. That takes time now to get it,” explained Wolff.
In Vancouver, more than 100 such marijuana dispensaries have opened. They still are illegal under federal law. But, last month, city council there voted to regulate them. Vancouver dispensaries must pay licensing fees and there are zoning rules in place.
Officials with the City of Edmonton say there are no plans to take similar measures here.
Across Canada, there are 15 producers licensed to sell marijuana, including seven in Ontario, five in B.C. and one each in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick.
As of October 31, there were 13,671 patients registered under the new federal system.
With files from Fletcher Kent, Global News