Dispensary on the front line of legal battles

Education session planned for Friday at 7 p.m. in downtown Parksville

Medical marijuana has been a big topic recently in Parksville.

Local and high-profile supporters of a medical marijuana dispensary in Parksville call the police raid Thursday harassment and invite supporters to an event tomorrow.

“I tried to do it legally, but it just didn’t work out,” said Donna Johnson. She said she tried to go through the licencing system, but the paperwork and finding a doctor to prescribe it “just became too complicated.”

Instead she turned to the Nanaimo-based Phoenix Pain Management Society, which opened a dispensary in downtown Parksville in January, to help treat her fibromyalgia and two forms of arthritis.

She said she has since been able to ween herself off all her heavy-duty prescription medications and considers herself a medical marijuana patient, though she isn’t licensed with Health Canada.

“I see this as a human rights issue,” said concerned citizen Jo Ross.

She said she doesn’t use marijuana but “freaked out after I heard about the raid and contacted the mayor and all the councillors and the police to complain. I think the timing was strategic, right before the long weekend. Police are doing more harm than good.”

“We can list all kinds of things that are illegal, but the laws are going to change,” she said, calling The NEWS to register her dissatisfaction with her elected representatives.

“I just feel like this is harassment and I hope this will make it on the agenda soon and people keep open minds. There’s a lot of real science about the medicinal effects.”

It’s not about the medical effects for everyone.

“Even if it just makes you feel good — we have pills for that, we have pharmaceutical medicines to make you feel better — so how could that degrade the use of a plant for the same effect?” marijuana activist Marc Emery asked.

Emery spoke to The NEWS in support of Phoenix, saying he knows the organizers and “I wish them well.”

While Phoenix helps patients access marijuana for medical reasons, Emery said the dispensary fight is the front line of the bigger battle to legalize marijuana, stating “It’ll be legal everywhere in the Western World within five years.”

“We rely on the police to make some busts because it brings needed attention to the fact that it’s still against the law and the law should be changed,” Emery said. “It’s important for the police to go ahead and do this and provoke the public because it keeps us politically relevant, it keeps us motivated, feeling oppressed and persecuted, which we are.”

Emery said in some places, like Vancouver, police “have decided marijuana is inevitably going to be legalized and so they’re paving the way for it to be done properly… you have about 75 dispensaries selling 30-40 different kinds of cannabinoids, and they’re about to be licensed by city hall, which would be the first city in North America to essentially legalize marijuana on the local level by licensing all the distribution outlets.”

“The bottom line is everyone knows someone in their family who smokes marijuana,” he said, adding there isn’t the same stigma as there was 30 years ago.

“Everybody talks about it now, you can’t shut these pot people up, they’re everywhere and they’re noisy and they’re going to engage in civil disobedience by opening up these dispensaries,” he said, vowing to keep fighting.

“We’re going to keep doing it, that’s our whole point.”

Meanwhile the Oceanside RCMP detachment didn’t respond to questions about the timing of the raid last Thursday afternoon.

Parksville Mayor Marc Lefebvre and the RCMP have been clear since Phoenix opened in Parksville in January that distributing marijuana or cannabis products is illegal.

Initially, society director Akil Pessoa said they were not distributing in Parksville, but told The NEWS in February that they’d started selling CBDs (cannabinoids, or cannabis based products).

There is a City of Parksville notice on the door at Phoenix that says the property cannot be used in any way until it is officially inspected and found to be safe, due to controlled substances having been on the property.

The mayor and city officials said they didn’t know anything about the raid until after the fact, which is when the bylaw kicks in.

There is an education session at Phoenix’s Parksville location, 120 Middleton Street, this Friday at 7 p.m. about childhood diseases and how cannabis extracts are being used to treat conditions like epilepsy, autism, cerebral palsy and other issues. A guest speaker will talk about cannabinoids, the endocannabinoid system and childhood diseases.

People are asked to RSVP to sensiblePQB@gmail.com to reserve seats for a $5 donation. They will also collect donations for the Owen Smith, Neil Allard and Karl Mitchell defence funds.

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