A string of police raids on homes and stores across Nova Scotia late last month demonstrate the size of the grey-zone surrounding drug laws.
On August 24, following an eight-month investigation, the RCMP executed nine search warrants at five marijuana storefronts, including Tasty Buds in Antigonish.
Gillian Sarah Sampson, 28 of Antigonish, was one of the people arrested. Sampson is scheduled to appear in Antigonish Provincial Court on October 25. She faces charges of trafficking a controlled substance, possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking, and possession of property obtained by proceeds of crime.
In total, the nine searches led to 10 people facing 69 charges. Police seized a loaded handgun, a shot gun, significant quantities of marijuana, chemically extracted cannabis resin (shatter and hash), cannabidiol (commonly referred to as cannabis oil), cannabis edibles, cocaine, large amounts of cash along with drug paraphernalia, three ATMs, and storefront signage from the raids.
The RCMP reasoned the raids were in response to Tasty Buds “operating as a criminal network,” noting the company is “misleading the public… using the guise of storefronts to commit crime and profit from the proceeds of crime.”
The RCMP said the only legal way for someone with a prescription to obtain marijuana is through Health Canada via the mail. The police also said that every storefront that sells marijuana is doing so illegally, even going so far as to claim these businesses are “profit driven and not really concerned with the health of their consumers.”
Although the RCMP clearly believes such stores are operating illegally, how they arrived at that conclusion is not as clear.
There is little difference between Health Canada cardholders obtaining marijuana via the mail or the same people buying marijuana at a local store, especially if the stores are legally selling products to those legally allowed to consume them.
The other point of contention is the RCMP’s unfounded allegations that Tasty Buds owners and operators are merely greedy businessmen who do not care about the health of their customers.
While the actions of the business owners can be questioned, it is counter-productive to speculate on their motives. It is conceivable that in addition to striving to establish a successful business, Tasty Buds stakeholders also want to ensure their customers have access to the health products they need.
And while the RCMP is calling these business owners greedy, there is little evidence the national police service is doing any more to consider the needs of those medically prescribed and legally permitted to consume and possess marijuana. By raiding these businesses and seizing these drugs, the RCMP is actually preventing patients from accessing their medicine.
There are also glaring inconsistencies in how these laws are enforced across the country. While numerous operations have been raided and charges have been laid in Nova Scotia, in other provinces like British Columbia, there are hundreds of similar stores that have and continue to operate unimpeded.
The fact is that marijuana legalization has not arrived, and there may be illegal activity occurring at these stores in the meantime, but the more responsible action from the RCMP would have been to open a dialogue with these business owners, then if there are still violations of the law, the RCMP can and should proceed with enforcement.
These businesses are creating jobs, stimulating business activity and providing an in-demand and vital service, and at this time next year, they will be operating under the law.
The best course of action for the RCMP is to work with these businesses because they could be a valued member of the community some day.