Vernon medical cannabis dispensary calls for moratorium on RCMP visits

The Herbal-Health Centre was one of five Vernon dispensaries visited by RCMP and given verbal warnings the last week of November

The Herbal-Health Centre (THHC), a medical cannabis dispensary in Vernon, is calling for a moratorium on any further RCMP intervention in the fledgling industry until the new Liberal government formalizes its plans for the legalization of the product.

Imre Kovacs, who represents a coalition of dispensaries in Vernon, said RCMP action at various dispensaries around B.C. including one that he is involved in, make it clear there is much confusion surrounding the anticipated legalization of cannabis and the sensible thing to do would be to maintain the status quo until such time as the government acts upon and changes the legislation and regulation of cannabis.

Kovacs says that the facilities are responding to police warnings by shutting down retail operations.

“Vernon dispensaries will have no product on site and will not be conducting retail sales,” said Kovacs in a press release.

“The activities we were warned about will stop.  We will implement an open-house policy and staff will be on hand to answer questions and concerns from patients about accessing their medicine.  The public will be able to enter the facilities and talk with staff.”

Kovacs said the RCMP’s actions “are not helping the situation,” and believes they are putting medical patient cannabis users “in a state of tension and threatening the survival of dispensaries.”

“We realize evolving transparent laws and regulations will take time and we support the notion that this must happen to arrive at sensible and workable laws that will regulate cannabis for medical and social purposes,” he said.

Five Vernon dispensaries, including The Herbal-Health Centre, were visited by RCMP the last week of November.

In acknowledging the verbal warning recently issued by local RCMP, Kovacs said the City of Vernon and RCMP were fully aware of its business intentions months and years in advance of his  opening, and understood that they were “operating under a non-enforcement policy with their tacit approval.”

“We have complied with all the direction and feedback we received from these officials and have operated openly, transparently and responsibly — the record is very clear,” said Kovacs. “Nothing has changed in the context of legislation but we have a new federal government that has set in motion a process for legalization and regulation of cannabis.

“With this clearly in mind what is the purpose of this current RCMP campaign knowing change is coming?  We wonder why the RCMP is taking the action it is. Surely it is more sensible to simply go to a stand still position for all concerned until the government makes its decision.”

The coalition facilities collectively serve a membership of about 10,000 patients and believe they have a responsibility to look after their health needs.

While recognizing there are many facets to the infant industry, Kovacs said his company consistently strives to be one of the leading dispensaries in the province and Canada.

“We set high standards for ourselves and our members and are responsible, professional and transparent,” he said.

Despite the whole industry being on a learning curve, Kovacs said his nine employees undergo on-going, in-house training and “we are determined to be at the leading edge of patient and dispensing care and the coalition is committed to implementing high standards for all represented facilities.”

“That is why we firmly believe that leaving the current situation alone is the best course of action,” he said. “It will reduce the anxiety level of patients and give the government the time it needs to formulate the best legislation it can.”

The Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP issued a release last week confirming it had paid a visit to the five dispensaries “to outline our concerns and the potential ramifications related to business practices which do not comply with the current Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.”

Police said in the same release it would not be commenting further on this issue.