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It’s high time for legalization, says Digby cannabis dispensary owner

Roland Swift is the owner of the newly opened High Tides, a medical cannabis dispensary in Digby. He is passionate about medical cannabis because of how it helped his mother and sister during their final days as they battled cancer. “It gave [them] dignity, and meant the world,” he said.
Roland Swift is the owner of the newly opened High Tides, a medical cannabis dispensary in Digby. He is passionate about medical cannabis because of how it helped his mother and sister during their final days as they battled cancer. “It gave [them] dignity, and meant the world,” he said.

DIGBY, NS – How do you feel about being arrested?

This is what Roland Swift asked his employees before hiring them at High Tides, the medical cannabis dispensary that’s just opened in Digby.

It’s a reality they face daily, awaiting legislation to legalize marijuana, which would end the limbo dispensaries are sitting in across Nova Scotia.

“We’re in a grey area and are sticking our necks out to help people. We’re all passionate about this, and about making a difference,” said Swift.

 

Waiting for a green light

High Tides first opened August 31. It is a medical cannabis dispensary, selling only to those with cannabis prescriptions and who are over 19 years of age.

It has an operation permit from Digby’s municipality and is official in every way except one – dispensaries are still technically illegal.

“We stand proud, knowing we’ve spoken with the RCMP, with the town and that they know we are 100 per cent transparent. This is a wellness centre, and we are truly here to help people,” said Swift.

Ashley Roberts is the store manager. She is passionate about educating people on why medical cannabis can help people. “My grandmother considered it when she had cancer, and had she known products existed that would help her pain without getting her high, it could really have helped her,” she said.

The dispensary acts just like a pharmacy. Swift, store manager Ashley Roberts and assistant manager Colby Thibodeau sell medical cannabis products and also hold consultation sessions with anyone unsure of what will work for them.

Samples are also given to anyone with a prescription on a limited income, just as a pharmacy or doctor will sometimes provide a small sample of a new medicine.

 

It’s high time for education

Not only does the dispensary operate with 100 per cent transparency, it also encourages anyone who is curious to bring their questions and leave with answers.

“The biggest part of our job here outside of sales is education,” said Swift.

“Most people that are afraid or against cannabis are just not informed on what it can do for people,” said Roberts.

One of the biggest clarifications is cannabis is an umbrella term for different marijuana and cannabiod products.

Another point of clarification with customers is there are forms of cannabis you can take without getting high.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is another chemical found in marijuana, but unlike THC, its main high-inducing ingredient, it doesn’t get you high. Different methods of usage also exist, like smoking, eating, and capsules that can be taken like a pill.

Colby Thibodeau works at the centre because he is passionate about access. “There are so many people who cannot access dispensaries because of distance, finances and other reasons,” he said. “I’m working here to help change that.”

“It still helps manage pain and has other benefits without getting its user high,” said Roberts.

Medical cannabis can also be used for more than pain management, what it’s most known for.

Roberts said some customers also take it for the munchies, because they have no appetite on their own.

“You might make fun that side effects are laughter and munchies, but you know what, those for some people are the world,” said Swift.

 

A personal investment

Swift is from Brier Island, and says his own mother was among those most against marijuana when he was growing up.

“My mother told me she’d cut me out of her life if I didn’t stop,” said Swift.

“I sent her a book on the medical benefits of cannabis, and she did a complete 180. She got hold of me, crying, saying, ‘there is so much people don’t know.’”

Swift’s sister, who worked as a prison warden and was entirely against using, even medically, lost her battle with cancer last Christmas. She decided in her final weeks she no longer wanted to take opioid medications that made her unable to spend time with her children.

Sherry Outhouse has known several people who’ve taken medical cannabis and have seen immediate improvements. “I just want other people who need help to know we’re here for them,” she said.

“We got her a prescription for cannabis products, and it was night and day. She had her dignity back, her pain was gone and was able to say goodbye to her kids. That meant the world,” said Swift.

 

Hitting it home in Digby

Roberts feels good about her new position with High Tides. Thibodeau does as well, along with receptionist Sherry Outhouse.

“We’ve had a really good reception in Digby, and I take that as a really good sign,” said Roberts.

Swift agreed, saying, “The only thing I’ve noticed is lots of curiosity, which we welcome here.”

As he discusses his business, several people walk through the doors. One is middle-aged, another is a senior and the third appears to be in her late twenties.

“That variety right there is what we’re looking for, and is the reason I moved the shop back home to Digby,” said Swift, who is closing his Halifax location.

“I saw a need here, where it’s harder to find doctors that will agree to prescribe.”

Swift, Roberts, Thibodeau and Outhouse have high hopes that, with three doctors newly arrived in Digby, the prospects are good.

“Older generations lived in a time when the media scared everyone with cannabis. We have to work to change that, and our best tool is information,” said Swift.

 

High Tides is located at 367 Route 303 in Digby.

To contact the dispensary, give them a call at (902) 378-2224 or visit them at their Facebook page.

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