Medical cannabis users worried about access to derivatives if dispensaries are closed

Click to play video: 'Halifax dispensary owner vows to stay open in face of cannabis legalization' Halifax dispensary owner vows to stay open in face of cannabis legalization
WATCH: Recreational cannabis will be legal in little more than a week. But cannabis storefront dispensaries will not. As Silas Brown reports, one Halifax dispensary owner says he will stay open for the sake his medical marijuana patients – Oct 9, 2018

With only eight days remaining until recreational cannabis is legal in Canada, some medicinal patients are worried about how they will access derivative products that they have come to rely on.

“I don’t know where I’m gonna go. I don’t know,” said Rick Williams, who was diagnosed with cancer in May of 2017.

“I could go to the ‘black market,’ as they say, and the black market is still gonna thrive. I can see it’s gonna thrive because right now in Nova Scotia I cannot purchase any oil products. I can go to the liquor store and buy raw marijuana. I cannot smoke raw marijuana [because of] my lungs, I need cannabis oil.”
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READ MORE: Nova Scotia colleges and universities update rules ahead of legalization

Derivatives like the THC pills Rick Williams relies on will not be available from the NSLC come Oct. 17. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that edible and derivative products will be legalized about a year after the buds that will go on sale in a little over a week.

Chris Enns, the owner of Farm Assists, a medical dispensary on Gottingen Street, says he has no plans to close down.

“Following Oct. 17 we plan to continue serving medically licensed the cannabis products that they need to alleviate their symptoms,” he said.

Last week Halifax Regional Police Supt. Jim Perrin reiterated the HRP’s position regarding dispensaries is the same as ever.

“They were illegal, they are illegal, they’ll continue to be illegal and, you know, continued operation of a dispensary, the people who are working there or are behind the business shouldn’t be surprised if they come into contact with the police as far as an investigation goes,” Perrin told Global News on Friday.

WATCH: How Halifax is preparing for legal cannabis

Click to play video: 'How Halifax is preparing for legal cannabis' How Halifax is preparing for legal cannabis
How Halifax is preparing for legal cannabis – Oct 5, 2018

Oils are available through mail order medical cannabis services, but Enns says medical patients should have storefront access just like recreational users.

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“There’s absolutely no reason why someone who’s using cannabis recreationally on Oct. 17 should be able to access that product from a storefront, whereas those that are medically prescribed and need specific strains, and need specific modes of cannabis to best alleviate their condition, should have to wait two or three days by mail order if that product is even legally legislated,” he said.

Enns says several of his customers are worried that access to derivatives will be affected if his dispensary gets shut down.

“I’m hearing a lot of fear coming from patients, where they’re afraid that the products that they rely on for their pain or for their various conditions simply won’t be available if there’s an increased targeting of cannabis dispensaries,” he said.

“I think dispensaries that are exclusively serving those patients that are medically licensed will continue to operate under a constitutional umbrella given to us by the supreme court of Canada. Nothing changes about a patient’s right to access derivatives on Oct. 17.”

READ MORE: Halifax now accepting requests for designated smoking areas

Along with several other Nova Scotian dispensary owners, Enns is part of the Nova Scotia Medicinal Association of Cannabis Dispensaries. The group is trying to advocate for a medical storefront framework to fill the gap in derivative supply for medical users.

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“Our goal as a society is to develop self-regulation that demonstrates to the community around us that we are working towards on-boarding with the government and are ready to work with our provincial and municipal politicians in order to develop a regulatory regime that allows patients to access these products,” he said.

So far the group, which is made up of dispensaries that exclusively serve medically-licensed patients, has met with the director of public safety for the Department of Justice, Robert Purcell, and made a presentation to Halifax Regional Council.

Enns has been arrested several times and his dispensary has been raided by police at lest three times since 2013, but says that remaining open is worth the risk.

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