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Marijuana ‘virtually legal’ in Nelson, website says

A pot tourism website says marijuana is all but legal in Nelson, but the police chief disagrees. - Black Press file photo
A pot tourism website says marijuana is all but legal in Nelson, but the police chief disagrees.
— image credit: Black Press file photo

A website devoted to marijuana tourism claims pot is “virtually legal” in Nelson, although its editor admits the page is “pretty outdated” and the city’s police chief disagrees with most of it.

Creston RCMP Staff Sgt. Bob Gollan recently referred to webehigh.org in a quarterly report to town council. He said they find pot in just about every vehicle they stop and noted the website rated Creston at 4.5 and Nelson at five on a scale where one is “very illegal” and five is “virtually legal.”

They are the only Kootenay communities profiled on the site. A related blog contains articles like “Top 10 Marijuana travel destinations 2014” (Canada comes in at No. 8) and “Five useful tips for finding weed while on vacation.”

The Nelson page is dated August 2012, like most entries on the site, but appears to contain much older information. After giving some background on Canada’s marijuana laws through the early 2000s, it states:

“Law enforcement: Some cops will take your stash to smoke it, others just want to bust you. Public smoking is more or less okay if you’re not dumb about it.

“Where to buy marijuana in Nelson: You can ask around Baker Street. This should be mentioned … there is a head shop that will SELL you weed directly if you are 19 or over and have your ID … For legal reason[s] get to Nelson and find the shop name yourselves, everyone knows it.”

But if that’s a reference to the Holy Smoke Culture Shop, it’s been out of business for several years.

“Actually that page is pretty outdated,” the site’s editor said in an email. “I have over 1,200 articles on the site and it’s hard to find time to edit the least popular ones. As for the head shop that sells weed, I can’t really comment since I don’t know, but the article is old and was user submitted well over two years ago.”

Police unimpressed

Nelson police chief Wayne Holland refuted many or most of the article’s assertions, including the central premise that marijuana is practically legal here.

The same year the review was posted, the Star published a story noting more than twice as many possession charges had been laid in Nelson in recent years compared to a decade earlier and the per capita rate was much higher than the rest of the country.

“We are by no means a ‘virtually legal’ city,” Holland said, although he added the police department prides itself on marijuana enforcement strategies and policies that deal with each incident individually. Immediate enforcement is only be applied when there is “blatantly egregious conduct,” a connection to organized crime, or a chronic offender. “Discretion is something our officers rely on and exercise very wisely, given the ‘pro-usage’ attitudes on marijuana that are especially prevalent in Nelson and the Kootenay region,” Holland said.

He said the notion local officers would steal drugs and consume them was “offensive” and “likely confirms the author has imbibed too much of his/her own stash and/or is extremely ill-informed with regards to the standards associated with the hiring of police officers in this country.” (Holland said he has investigated one or two such cases in his career, but it is “extremely rare.”)

He also said the statement some police “just want to bust you” is “ridiculous” because officers are already busy with more important things and the work required to run someone in for a minor drug offence isn’t “palatable or practical.”

He noted most police chiefs are advocating for a ticketing process in simple possession cases, similar to traffic and liquor offences, which require no arrest and result in no criminal record.

“Overall, I’d suggest the site is doing a bad job of providing information on this issue,” Holland said. “I have a feeling they are being extremely general and unsophisticated in their opinions.”

One area, however, he found closer to the mark was the site’s suggestion that the price of marijuana in Nelson is “$20 to $30, usually $25 per 1/8 [ounce], $40 to $50 per 1/4 [ounce]. $100 to $150 per ounce.”

Holland said that’s “not too far off,” but the amounts are a “a bit low.”

Philip McMillan of the Nelson Cannabis Compassion Club said the prices “seem about right on the low end. On the high end they are a bit off.”

He also said that regardless of the community’s tolerance for marijuana, “I don’t recommend smoking in public, even in Nelson. It’s a bit of a crap shoot.”

— With files from Brian Lawrence, Creston Valley Advance

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