BIBLE HILL, N.S. – Rick Leclerc opened his medicinal marijuana dispensary, Community Compassion Centre, eight months ago with the idea of being different from the rest.
With a focus on compassion towards the sick, he made his business as non-profit as possible to provide those dealing with chronic pain and illness a quality product that is affordable and effective in a safe and accessible space.
Now, with the Nova Scotia government’s recent announcement for plans to distribute legalized weed through NSLC stores and online as well as banning the operation of dispensaries, Leclerc is fighting to keep his shop’s services available to those in need.
“We help out a lot of older people who need our expertise to learn more and help them figure out what’s best for them,” he said.
“We are treating people with cancer right now. Doctors call us for advice and info on medicinal marijuana. What will happen when those people have to go to a liquor store to get their stuff?”
Currently, Leclerc is in the middle of a court battle after the RCMP raided his and two other shops in Bible Hill in September, and is facing a charge of possession with intent to traffic.
He is determined to beat the charge, and also wants to use the case to make a plea to the judge to allow his shop and services to continue in Bible Hill after legalization – services that are necessary to people like Jake Schofield.
“If it wasn’t for this place, I wouldn’t be able to function day to day,” said Schofield as he stood outside Community Compassion Centre.
Schofield volunteers at the shop for 40 hours a week, helping members get the product they need to deal with daily pains and illnesses.
Like other members of the Community Compassion Centre, Schofield suffers from chronic pain caused by four herniated disks in his spine, which has put him out of work and on disability.
“Without medical marijuana, I wouldn’t be able to function or get out of bed, and I have a wife and two kids to take care of,” he said.
“That’s why I volunteer my time here, to keep this place open. This place needs to stay open for all the people like me. Everyone that comes here comes because they are in pain or are sick.”
The government’s plan on how it intends to handle legal weed has left both Schofield and Leclerc with concerns about the future of their business, as well as the well-being of their members as prices and accessibility come into question.
Currently, the Community Compassion Centre offers members a tab for those suffering pain but in a financial bind, allowing them to get product now while ensuring they can still “put milk in the fridge,” as Leclerc put it.
“You aren’t going to get that kind of financial help online or at the NSLC,” said Schofield.
“A lot of people who come here can’t afford to buy stuff in five-gram intervals, which is what they will probably do when it’s legal. I know I couldn’t afford to spend $70 on five grams and wait six days for my online order to come in. I’m in pain, I need something now.”
They are also worried about how possible exposure to alcohol may affect some of their clients recovering from alcohol addiction, and feel the push to handle distribution through NSLC will also help the weed black market thrive more than it already is.
“Not all communities want weed in the liquor stores, and some communities don’t even have a liquor store. So instead, they’ll head to the dealer down the street to get their stuff for less.”
As for Community Compassion Centre, Leclerc said he is uncertain on the outcome of the court trial, but regardless if the shop stays open or is forced to shut down, he will get his members what they need, one way or another.
“I would rather stay here, where it’s legal, it’s on the books, and our taxes are paid. I would rather be recognized as a good person helping others, not a shady underground dealer …
“I set up shop to help people here, and I’m here to stay.”