The legalization of pot may be looming but that doesn’t mean police are backing off their crackdown on the “grey” marijuana market.
Most recently, RCMP in Colchester County raided the Community Compassion Centre in Bible Hill. They seized cash, marijuana, marijuana derivatives and drug paraphernalia, and charged Ricky Joseph Leclerc, 51, of Upper Kennetcook.
He’s scheduled to appear in Nova Scotia provincial court Friday.
“The RCMP will continue to work within the existing legislation under the Controlled Drug and Substances Act,” RCMP spokesman Cpl. Dal Hutchinson said Monday in an email. “If we determine that there is a violation of the legislation, we will take appropriate action.”
Criminologist Michael Boudreau said the continued crackdown on storefront pot shops makes no sense.
“I mean, one of the reasons why some of the police forces are tacitly on board with the legalization of cannabis, small amounts to 30 grams, is because it’s been over the years a tremendous waste of their resources,” Boudreau said in an interview Monday from St. Thomas University in Fredericton, where he’s chairman of its criminology department.
“Continuing to target the pot shops, the privately run shops, and it’s happening in Nova Scotia, in New Brunswick and other provinces, it’s just foolhardy.
“These shops even at the best of times were not part of the so-called black market.
“The police would have us believe in some of these cases these stores were the fronts for the Hells Angels or what have you.
“The police have provided very little evidence to support that and in many cases these shops were selling more medicinal marijuana as opposed to recreational marijuana.”
Sometime this summer — likely in August, given the progression of Bill C-45 through the federal legislative machine — marijuana will be legalized in Canada. In Nova Scotia, the drug will be sold at nine Nova Scotia Liquor Commission outlets.
Operators of storefront pot dispensaries say their product is for medicinal use and argue they have the constitutional right to do so.
When asked if Nova Scotia RCMP are making more of a concerted effort to crack down on pot shops ahead of legalization, Hutchinson said in his emailed response that “the RCMP sets enforcement priorities in consultation with local government, partners and citizens of the community. Businesses operating incontravention of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act may be subject to investigation and criminal charges in accordance with Canadian laws.”
A spokesman at the national RCMP headquarters, who also responded by email, echoed that response.
“Police enforcement relating to unlicensed cannabis distributors may vary between communities as police agencies in Canada work closely with community stakeholders to identifylocal risks and vulnerabilities and prioritize publicsafety objectives,” said Sgt. Harold Pfleiderer on Monday.
“The RCMP works closely with police agencies across the country to tackle organized crime, and remains committed to enforcing the CDSA in the communities it serves across Canada.”
Boudreau said governments should be taking advantage of the private sellers’ expertise instead of putting them in the court system.
Every province except Alberta plans to sell marijuana in government outlets such as liquor stores.
“Frankly under the new regime the provinces like Nova Scotia (and) New Brunswick should have continued with this hybrid model of private and public sales, as Alberta is doing,” he said.
“Only because arguably the folks who are running these shops now are just as well versed in how to sell cannabis in a responsible manner as the folks that are going to be trained by the provinces in the public system.”