The first medical marijuana dispensary to pop up in Chilliwack has now been nipped in the bud.
A RCMP tactical team arrived at the WeeMedical shop on Fifth Avenue just after 5 p.m. on Tuesday, during business hours. According to various posts on social media, customers were in the store at the time of the raid.
A No Occupancy order was posted on the door, and all signage was removed from the building's windows and street front.
An employee who ran the shop, Shayli Vere, posted on the dispensary's Facebook page on Wednesday, announcing that she had been held by police in cells during the search, and subsequently released. She also informed customers that she would be parting ways with WeeMedical, due to the owner's "focus only on the profits made without proper pay or support to their staff."
"It was a traumatic day, but I meditated in my cell knowing what I personally was standing up for, you, was worth it," she wrote. "Please let the papers, your city council and RCMP know what you think of paying for nine armed RCMP with bulletproof vests raiding just little me. I cooperated. I left WeeMedical but will continue to fight for the cause as I am able."
Chilliwack RCMP said they received a report on March 11 of alleged illegal cannabis sales on March 11, a week before the storefront opened.
"During the weeks following the report, officers of the Chilliwack RCMP Crime Reduction Unit (CRU) conducted surveillance of the address as they covertly gathered evidence in their investigation leading up to the search," said Cpl. Mike Rail. Tuesday's raid was under the Controlled Drug and Substance Act. They found drugs "believed by police to be marijuana, store records, and cash," all of which were seized.
Their investigation continues.
“Chilliwack CRU officers are continuing to pursue their CDSA investigation of the transactions conducted by the store’s proprietors. After a thorough investigation has been completed, the evidence collected will be reviewed by investigators to determine whether police will be submitting all circumstances of the investigation in a report to Federal Crown Counsel for their assessment of Controlled Drug and Substance Act charges,” said Rail.
WeeMedical was carrying medical marijuana and related products, including cookies, brownies, candies. However, like all dispensaries in Canada, they are not federal-government approved distributers. Some municipalities, including Vancouver, have created regulatory guidelines and and are collecting fees to temporarily manage dispensaries and compassion clubs. Vancouver's bylaw will be changed once the Liberal government puts its plan to regulate and restrict access into place, they've said, and the dozen or so businesses they've approved for licensing will be required to follow federal guidelines — if that even includes dispensaries.
The process of moving to legalized marijana is underway, with a national task force looking at the best way to roll out legalization.
In the meantime, selling marijuana remains an illegal activity — even if some police departments and RCMP detachments are turning a blind eye to it. That wasn't the case in Chilliwack. In addition to the forced closure, the municipality hit the dispensary with $1000 in fines each day it was open, from March 18 to April 5. In addition, the dispensary's two landlords were being fined $500 each daily. The city had warned the business owner prior to opening that the fines would be in place.
Last week, Mayor Sharon Gaetz voiced concerns over the legal issues surrounding the operation. And MP Mark Strahl said much of the confusion surrounding regulations stems from the vast differences between the Conservative strategy that had been in motion, and the new Liberal plan to legalize medical marijuana.
The RCMP added a reminder to everyone who witnesses anything they believe to be suspicious in nature to the Chilliwack RCMP at 604-792-4611, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-22-8477.