As Saskatoon’s medical pot dispensary enters its first month in business, licensed producers under Health Canada are calling for its closure.
“The whole thing isn’t regulated in any shape or form so how can there be anything medical about it?” Prairie Plant Systems president and CEO Brent Zettl said.
Zettl joined the Board of Police Commissioners meeting at city hall on Monday to discuss the illegal operation of a medical cannabis dispensary that popped up in Saskatoon near the end of August.
Just before opening the doors to his dispensary, Saskatchewan Compassion Club founder Mark Hauk spoke to the city’s planning committee asking them for a business licence so he can legally operate his dispensary. The committee agreed to look at what other Canadian cities like Vancouver and Victoria have done to deal with medical marijuana dispensaries popping up in their respective communities.
But in the meantime, Hauk opened an illegal medical marijuana dispensary that has legal producers in Saskatoon waving the caution flag.
On Monday, Zettl told the commissioners they would essentially be aiding and abetting an illegal operation if they city considered handing Hauk a business licence.
“How could the city issue a business licence to someone who is knowingly doing something illegal? That would be like issuing a business licence for someone who sells fentanyl illegally in an open dispensary or OxyContin,” Zettl said. “From our perspective the city shouldn’t be in the business of picking and choosing which laws they want to follow and which laws they don’t want to follow.”
“How could the city issue a business licence to someone who is knowingly doing something illegal? That would be like issuing a business licence for someone who sells fentanyl illegally in an open dispensary or OxyContin.” – Prairie Plant Systems president and CEO Brent Zettl
Zettl said the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) are available to anyone who wants to become a legal licenced producer. What Hauk is doing is bypassing the regulations and selling whatever he wants to whoever he wants.
“We have nothing against the individual, but if we have to follow the rules that are designed for patient safety first and public safety second to make sure they’re getting proper medicine, there’s nothing to say he can’t go through the same system,” Zettl said, adding Hauk is trying to “jump the queue” with his dispensary acting outside the lines of the MMPR.
Hauk opened the compassion club after spending a lot of time consulting patients, helping them access medical cannabis through Health Canada. After hearing complaints about the lack of accessibility, the soaring costs and other challenges facing prescription holders, he took matter into his own hands and opened the dispensary.
Hauk said he’s now compiled a list of more than 200 clients who have dealt with Health Canada, but have chosen to buy their medical cannabis from Hauk.
Zettl said marijuana and its illegal status has become a political issue and expects a shift in how it’s regulated once Canadians head to the polls on Oct. 19 for the federal election, considering Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is calling for its decriminalization.
But as long as the city and Saskatoon police standby and watch the dispensary sell medical pot, they’re putting themselves at risk, Zettl said.
“If they issue them a licence it puts the city at great risk because they’re offside of the law and we’ll see how that plays out.”