As the government, police, justice system, and dispensaries continue their constitutional four-way, owners of said dispensaries are cautiously opening or reopening as the case may be, but this time with a little help from their patients and local neighbors.
Patients have been holding stand-ins or ‘vape-ins’ at these local cannabis joints, with the idea in mind that if the feds want to arrest they have to arrest everyone, even the 80-year-old grandmother with arthritis.
Further to that, there are local neighborhood watches that have been set up, to alert dispensaries that police are on the way, and they should close down and leave the premises. This act of defiance is to show the police and Justin Trudeau that citizens should decide how and where they buy their legal weed.
One such dispensary that has not yet been raided, but received word from the police that they were under investigation, is Queens of Cannabis at 848 Bloor Street West, which is the only all-female owned dispensary in the City. “[The police] came by with a warning letter fifteen minutes before the raids started [at other dispensaries]on [Project Claudia] Thursday,” said Tania Cyalume, who is one of the co-owners of the business.
Patients are showing solidarity with the owners and Queens of Cannabis clearly have some dedicated clients. “People will come out to the shop and hang out inside or be in chairs outside. What they are saying [to police]is, you’re going to have to take us all down.” In regards to whether or not they expect to a raid, Tania is prepared. “It’s possible. The Taxpayers Association came out and said that they are having to deal with the fallout of the raids, in regards to people calling and complaining to them. They also crunched the numbers and it was a big waste of taxpayer dollars. So I think it would be silly for [police]to keep going, but I also feel like they will.”
Tania, like many others, believes that the police and the federal government are not being frank about their actual intentions. “They’re trying to get rid of dispensaries to make room for licensed producers to have the entire market.” She goes on to comment that she doesn’t know which corporation will ultimately sell marijuana, but mom and pop stores are not in the mix. “I don’t know if it will be licensed producers or LCBO or Shoppers Drug Mart but at the end of the day, they don’t want any small businesses.”
Queens of Cannabis also has a neighborhood watch that was set up by their patients. “We have several patients that live in the neighborhood, and they are always out there looking.” Interestingly enough, the patients doing the cop watch have different intentions than the dispensaries. “Me and the patients have different ideas. What I would want to do is get everybody off the site so that no one gets in trouble, but what the patients want is for them to all be here because they think that if they are going to take [the dispensary staff]down, you are going to take us all down.”
Tania has plans for that seemingly inevitable showdown. “Me and Brandi, we are the owners so we would stick around, we’re not going to run away, if they want to get us they can get us I would just prefer not to have any staff on site.”
One of the criticisms police and some others have had for dispensaries is they are saying that the owners are running a profit business to make money, all the while claiming this is really an act of civil disobedience, Tania had an answer for that as well. “We started off wanting to run a successful business, and now that we are beginning to see how this industry is progressing, it has turned into more of civil disobedience. We are patient to patient here. We only serve patients with prescriptions, and we feel there is definitely a gap in terms of patients accessing their medicine. We are just trying to fill the gap.”
Ultimately, Tania believes that there is no problem with a corporate entity selling marijuana, she just wants others to be able to sell it as well. “The LCBO can sell joints or whatever for rec use, but that’s not what we’re looking to do. We’re looking to service the patients, that’s our client. The majority of people here come for the oils, people with cancer, MS and they can’t get these oils.”
The cat and mouse game continues as dispensary owners look to find loopholes and other ways to get cannabis to their patients. The dispensaries feel that they are filling a need that currently doesn’t exist in the legal landscape of the country. Like any mouse, they are ultimately looking for a seat at the table.