Moments after speaking to city officials about regulating medical marijuana dispensaries in Saskatoon, compassion club owner Mark Hauk opened the doors to the city’s first dispensary.
“It’s open for everyone; the look and feel is like going to a doctor’s or a dentist’s office,” Hauk said, outlining his plans to the city’s planning and development committee.
Observing the successes in other Canadian cities including Victoria and Vancouver, Hauk urged the committee to start moving forward on regulations for medical pot dispensaries. Examples of regulations Hauk used included minimum distances from schools, as well as mandatory criminal background checks from dispensary owners and operators.
Councillor Pat Lorje spoke in favour of regulating pot dispensaries in Saskatoon, citing how Vancouver was forced to regulate these businesses after seeing almost 100 shops pop up in a couple of years.
“Let’s get on top of this, let’s make sure that we have the right regulation in place, then we can issue the business license,” Lorje said, adding the City of Saskatoon should have a conversation with the City of Vancouver about how to move forward.
Lorje went on to ask if Hauk would accept if the city limited his type of business to industrial areas, similar to how city council wrote regulations to limit where adult entertainment venues could operate.
Hauk responded saying his downtown location was purposely picked to strike a balance so those with mobility issues, cars or those who relied on public transit could come see him. Opening the downtown office gives clients a one-stop shop, whereas before, Hauk was forced to make house calls to consult and meet with clients.
Councillor Troy Davies told reporters he was interested in finding more information about medical pot dispensaries as he knows the medical side of cannabis could help a lot of people in the city.
“I do have a lot of residents in my ward that suffer from (Multiple Sclerosis) or anxiety or other issues, so it’s my duty to serve them and make sure we have all the answers to make decisions,” he said.
Hauk told NewsTalk Radio on Friday he had the city’s permission to work as a non-profit; consulting patients with medical marijuana prescriptions. On Monday, he reiterated to the committee that 90 per cent of what he does is help prescription holders access medical marijuana.
“It’s helping patients, helping them find a prescription or helping people deal with work issues with their employer … so I work as an advocate,” Hauk said.
And coming off what he considered a very fruitful interaction with the planning committee, Hauk said he plans to operate a dispensary out of his office, despite not having the appropriate business license to do so.
“There’s a clear legal risk when it comes to dispensing medicine, but again, I’m confident if the worst does happen, that I can explain myself to a judge down the road and I’m certainly ready and willing to do so,” he said.
Right now, if you are a Canadian citizen, you can legally obtain your medication by registering your medical document with a licensed producer that is authorized by Health Canada.
Hauk said the federal program is too restrictive and strenuous on patients because of low wait times, the enormous financial costs of ordering and the lack of interpersonal interaction when contacting and buying medical cannabis online.
The federal government does not consider compassion clubs to be legal, however special business license bylaws written in some Canadian cities protect those dispensaries in those cities.
Hauk believes there are about 240 compassion clubs across Canada and some continue to operated unlawfully.
-with files from News Talk Radio’s Kelly Malone
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