SASKATOON – Marijuana advocates like the new prime minister’s stance on pot.
However, the new tone from Ottawa didn’t stop Saskatoon police from cracking down on the city’s only dispensary in October. Police raided the Compassion Club, seized various forms of marijuana and arrested four people.
“They were operating as if they were a legitimate business. They are not a legitimate business; they are marijuana trafficking so they’re drug traffickers,” said Insp. Dave Haye with the Saskatoon police service.
Mark Hauk opened the Saskatchewan Compassion Club in August and sold various forms of marijuana, but was operating unlicensed.
“The public can make the judgment for themselves whether I am a drug dealer or providing medicine to sick people, very obviously, very sick people,” he said.
Hauk’s arrest in conjunction with the raid led to protests.
Hauk said dispensaries are necessary because they offer more options than federally regulated operations. They also allow patients to buy marijuana on site – rather than through the mail – which is how legal suppliers ship their medicine.
“Until the federal government gets their act together and dispenses this medicine properly, we’ll step in and do it,” Hauk said.
But the president an CEO of Canni-med, a Saskatchewan-based regulated medical marijuana producer, which belongs to the federal program said the federal route has improved over the years.
“The program is optimizing in efficiency and once a patient is registered with us, it’s usually within 24 to 48 hours, that anywhere in the country that they can actually have product that they are ordering,” said Brent Zettl.
Zettl has been in the medical pot business for more than a decade. His company serves roughly 6500 patients from across the country. He’s sees problems with how Hauk’s company operates.
“There is no system of checks and balances within the dispensary model that are official, that they have some sense of accountability to,” he said.
University of Saskatchewan sessional lecturer, Lucas Richert said Canadians are getting a mixed medical message when it comes to the drug. Regulation enforcement is not consistent across the country.
“Law enforcement officials have a lot to grapple with. A given philosophy of a police department often determines the rate at which they’re going to crack down on marijuana,” Richert said.
In Hauk’s case, he had received a letter from Health Canada telling him to stop selling or face consequences. Police also said taking no action could encourage other unregulated clubs to open, but the Compassion Clubs re-opened after Hauk was released from jail.
He plans to keep it that way while his case makes its way through the courts.
Global News’ Joel Senick contributed to this story