The owners of local medical marijuana dispensaries would welcome dialogue from all levels of government, according to one dispensary director, and they’re proud of the role they’re serving in the Nelson community. And following news that the police and city council are adopting a “wait and see” strategy towards the three existing locations in the downtown core, they are encouraging residents to educate themselves on cannabis.
“It’s really important for all parts of society to understand fully the science behind the medical use of cannabis and, more importantly, to see the people in their community who are benefitting from it,” said the Kootenays Medicine Tree’s Jim Leslie, who opened his Nelson location in June.
“We need to be the shining light to guide people through these times before we get better regulation.”
Marijuana activist and Sensible BC organizer Herb Couch agreed, and praised both deputy police chief Paul Burkart and Mayor Deb Kozak for adopting a “wait and see” strategy towards the controversial operations.
“I think this is a situation that’s happening in many places across the country,” Couch said. “I think they’re doing the right thing in waiting until after the federal election before they make a decision. I think they have good reasons, including pending court cases, to wait and see how the situation develops.”
In the meantime, Couch said the dispensaries are compensating for a woefully inadequate federal system, even though they’re operating in a sometimes stressful legal grey area. Currently three dispensaries are operating in Nelson, with an additional one expected to open, that the Star is aware of.
Last year a dispensary was evicted twice from the downtown core, and one of its locations was in the same block as the current three.
“This is a wonderful conversation,” said Leslie. “And we welcome it.”
Sensible BC and the federal election
Couch said the local marijuana industry is eagerly awaiting the results of this federal election, and soon Sensible BC will publicly endorse one of the candidates. It’s their hope the elected representative would then work towards legalization and regulation.
“We have three parties — Green, Liberal and NDP — that are all fairly progressive, whereas the Conservatives are hardcore prohibitionists. I think change will come depending on what happens with this election,” he said.
“People from around here are all very nervous about the outcome.”
He said ultimately they will make their endorsement based on two criteria: the candidate’s stance on marijuana legalization and regulation, and their chance at defeating Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks.
“We haven’t decided yet. We’re waiting to see which way the wind blows, but we’ll advocate for and endorse any candidate who can get David Wilks out of office. We desperately need a change.”
He said their primary activity is registering voters, especially young people.
Leslie’s operation began in Grand Forks, where his dispensary was temporarily shut down amidst community controversy. And though many thought it was now shuttered, Leslie said it’s continuing to go strong.
“The complaint from the public was resolved, the file was closed and we’ve been doing just fine ever since.”
Now he’s returned his attention back to his patients, and he said the results have been amazing.
“Our industry has grown, over the past 17 years, increasingly more professional. And while there is still a legal risk, we hold our heads high. We have a virtual army of patients and people behind us who have benefited from our services and are living healthy lives.”
Leslie acknowledged that the current situation is “imperfect,” but he’s motivated to continue by the results he’s seen.
“We had one little boy who was sent home on palliative care with kidney cancer to die, over a year ago. They had tried everything conventional and it all failed. The doctors told him he didn’t have long to live.”
That’s when they began administering a CBD-rich oil, a derivative of cannabis.
“Within five to six months he no longer had any cancer or tumours in his kidneys. That was coming straight from the physician. That’s incredible.”
Leslie is interested in educating seniors on cannabis.
“We have seniors who are crippled with osteoarthritis and neuropathic pain, wracked with the effects of aging and the side effects from these drugs. We get them on an oral or suppository dosing, and we’ve found many have been able to reduce their use of oxycontin and hydro-morphine.”
Leslie was involved in organizing three upcoming Learn in Retirement presentations on Oct. 9, 20 and 27 at the Silver King Campus of Selkirk College. The hour and a half sessions will cover a variety of topics on the history and science of cannabis.
Leslie also worked with Kyla Williams, a little girl from Summerland who campaigned for access to CBD oil. Her father is a retired RCMP officer.
“It makes my skin stand up. To take something and refine it to the point that it’s safe and effective and can actually reduce an epileptic episode? That’s amazing.”
The Nelson Compassion Club’s Philip McMillan was pleased to hear about the “wait and see” strategy adopted by council, but feels Burkart’s fears about cannabis are unfounded.
“Only thing I’m wondering is about all these cannabis edible deaths out of the States. I haven’t heard anything. People also need to figure out the difference between overdosing and a panic attack.”
And though he would like to see a more progressive attitude towards his work, he will continue to operate either way — as he has since the club was founded in 1999.
“I believe a not-for-profit organization has the right to do business anywhere in the province. If I am right my regulations would have to come from the province, not a municipality,” he said.
The Cannaclinic, the third dispensary operating in the city, declined to be interviewed for this story.
Update from UBCM
Mayor Deb Kozak, reached while attending the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver, said “though it’s not in my nature to be indefinite”, the “wait and see” approach is the best course for now.
“One of our councillors, Val Warmington, attended a session on marijuana legalization and the implications. I’m very much looking forward to hearing what she reports back.”