DISPENSARY RAIDS GALORE!

Written by Harold McNeill on December 9th, 2015. Posted in Tim Hortons Morning Posts


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Photo (Web Source – Gerry Kahrmann, PNG).  Marihuana dispensaries across the B.C., including the Weeds store in Vernon (photo above), were on High Alert after recent RCMP raids in Nanaimo, Mission and Sechelt.  In the Nanaimo raids sixteen people were arrested and a considerable quantity of cash and drugs seized. ((Vancouver Sun).

In cases like this the RCMP usually take great pains to display photos of the  seized drugs, paraphernalia and cash (often in millions) however, this time they were photo shy and tight lipped. Neither did they mention how many guns, cars and homes were seized under the Civil Forfeiture Act, as such seizures are common practice in cases of multiple co-ordinated busts across the Province. Perhaps something else prompted these raids?

Chasing Dealers in a Changing World   

For the RCMP, tracking down dealers has become a whole lot easier in a world where neon signs, street addresses and Google Earth help Drug Squad members hone in on traffickers. However, carrying out ‘discretionary’ dispensary raids and arrests brings not only the RCMP, but the entire Justice System into disrepute.

After listening to the RCMP Commissioner’s recent warning in which he advised people to stay off the internet, perhaps it was he who was putting pressure on his Detachment Commanders to get busy and enforce the law.  It is hard to imagine any Detachment Commander stepping that far out on a limb at a time when the law is about to change, without the order having come from the Provincial or National HQ. 

As every level of government struggles with developing strategies to deal with the onslaught of marihuana dispensaries opening across the land, it seems RCMP leaders in a few Detachments missed the news that marihuana and related derivatives will soon be legalized or, at the very least, decriminalized. Outlets such as Weeds and hundreds of others currently operating across the land will handle retailing in much the same fashion as alcohol and tobacco. Two Provinces, British Columbia and Ontario, are considering using their Provincial Liquor Store outlets as distribution points.

With the Federal Government promising to move forward in creating the legislation framework and the Union of B.C. Municipalities having declared their members will assume authority for licencing dispensaries, the path is clear. It’s bizarre that in these times of change the RCMP decided to arrest, detain and charge a number of people under the Controlled Substances Act, Matthew Odonall(scroll to Drugs), an act that carries mandatory life sentences for some marihuana related offences. This includes Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking (PPT), a charge mentioned in relation to the dispensary arrests.

Photo (Web Source).  Matthew O’Donnell, a clean-cut, well spoken young man, presents the Nanaimo Canabis Coalition position to the Mayor and Council.  The Mayor and Council commended the young man on his thoughtful presentation and encouraged more dialogue.

It was clear those arrested in the Nanaimo, Mission and Sechelt were not operating clandestine grow ops, nor were they trafficking in the traditional sense of the word. These were enterprising individuals who simply jumped the legislative gun in order to get in at the ground floor of an rapidly expanding business opportunity. These stores are largely operated by otherwise law-abiding citizen/entrepreneurs.

For some insight into those involved (as in the above photo) and the position they take, check out their presentations to the Nanaimo Mayor and Council. Contrary to statements made by the Nanaimo RCMP Detachment Commander, the Mayor of Nanaimo said there was little input from the general community over how the RCMP would conduct themselves in this matter. (Globe and Mail).

The situation was further explained in a recent email by Sensible BC’s Dana LarsenDana_Larsen:

” In Nanaimo three dispensaries were raided last week, and the seven others in town are also under threat of raids. Yet in a beautiful display of peaceful civil disobedience, all three opened up again the next day.

There have also recently been dispensary raids in Mission (BC Pain Society) and in Sechelt (S&M Medicinals). In Vernon, local dispensaries have also been threatened with raids if they don’t close down.

In Nanaimo and Sechelt, both Mayors have claimed they are helpless to direct or control their local RCMP. Yet the fact is that in every city or town where the Mayor has expressed support for local dispensaries, there have been no raids.

In cities like Vancouver, Victoria, Port Alberni, Kelowna and White Rock, local support has meant dispensaries are being licensed through bylaws and allowed to continue serving their members.

Last week (those members) did a call-out to all our supporters in Nanaimo, and got almost a hundred people to call the Mayor and demand an end to dispensary raids. This week we’ve got calls going out to our people in Mission, Sechelt and Vernon, to put pressure on their Mayors as well.

Legalization may be coming soon, but right now there are patients that need medical cannabis, and the federal system simply doesn’t work. Dispensaries are currently the best way for patients to access their cannabis medicine.

Local Mayors have the power to license dispensaries, they just need to have courage and take action.”   (Note: The title of this post was taken from a paragraph in the email)

Although police are caught in somewhat of a conundrum in these matters, that doesn’t make it OK to just move forward with arrests and the laying of serious charges. That only some police agencies (mainly the RCMP) are carrying out raids while others (e.g. Greater Victoria and most of the Lower Mainland), await further details on how marihuana will be handled, suggests intolerance is at play rather than a public safety issue.

Retired Oak Bay Police Chief Orders Nanaimo Raids

With respect to recent charges, CTV News reports senior RCMP members in areas whereOak Bay Police Chief Mark Fisher raids took place, “declined on-camera interviews standing instead behind a written statement that police have evidence stores are selling to minors”.

Nanaimo’s RCMP Detachment Commander, Superintendent Mark Fisher, who ordered raids in his area, recently retired as Chief Constable of the Oak Bay PD (photo right before moving to the RCMP). Fisher did go a little further by stating:

“When I have reports of storefronts selling marihuana to youth and concerned community members approaching me about it, we are compelled to take enforcement action,” wrote Fisher. “Our approach has always been to address public concerns, consult our contracting partners, stakeholders and allow for our investigations to determine the way forward. That was done in this case.”

That’s all fine and good Mark, but if you found someone selling a case of beer or a carton of cigarettes to some kid, it is unlikely you would arrest, detain, photograph, fingerprint and charge the person with an indictable offence.  Surely you must have researched alternative methods of dealing with any community concerns brought to your attention?  Given that most Detachments and Police Departments in BC have taken a hands off approach, it doesn’t seem this was an urgent public safety issue.

I hope you haven’t shed some of the Community Policing spirit that flowed out so well during your years in Oak Bay, selecting instead heavy handed enforcement reminiscent of early times in order to resolve nothing more than a vexing community problem. I expect most police and community leaders find homeless people camping in community parks to be a far more intractable challenge than a few marihuana stores.

As for your “addressing public concerns”, the public has made it clear in BC and the rest of Canada, that heavy-handed enforcement of marihuana, hashish and related products, is off the serious crimes table. And, as for “consulting (your) contracting partners (and) stakeholders..” it seems the Mayor of Nanaimo and others missed those meetings.

Another spokesperson for the Nanaimo Cannabis Coalition, Travis Lane, stated “the justification given (by the RCMP) is totally false.”   He continued: “They arrested three front-line workers from us yesterday. Today I can tell you our executive and senior management will be working those counters, and if they’re gonna arrest anyone, it should be us.”

Travis makes a good point and for owners and managers to reopen their shops in the face of a charge that carries a maximum life sentence, demonstrates a pretty solid commitment to the ideals they hope to achieve and which has lead Canada to the brink of extinguishing criminal sanctions on marihuana.  One could easily be lead to think police leaders who ordered these raids might not have read anything about the Prohibition experience in the United States in the first half of the last century and their senseless War on Drugs in the second half.

NOTE A new conclusion to this post was being written with the following topic of Oath of Office being spun off to second post.

A new conclusion

After writing the post to this point, I wondered why three RCMP Detachments, and rather small ones at that, would go so far out on a limb by carrying out raids and arresting people.  It just seemed like overkill given the law will be changing within six months or a year.

It was at that point I began to reflect upon the nature of the differences between the RCMP and Municipal/City forces (at least the small forces).  It was only when I checked out their Oath of Office that a major difference was revealed and after considering the matter felt that might explain much of what has happened.

Rather than continuing this post, I made the decision to spin off the conclusion to a second post that went a little more in depth on the subject of the Oath.

Suffice it to say, at this point in our history and from the information I have available in press releases and from my own experience, the raids in Nanaimo, Sechelt and Mission were overkill. No police administrator I know or have known, would have taken that step unless there was extreme pressure being exerted from ‘on high’.

I rather expect those who called the raids will regret their decisions.

Harold McNeill
Detective Sergeant (Retired)
Oak Bay Police Department

Link Here to Police Members Oath of Office

Link here to RCMP Commissioner on the Wrong Track

Link here to Oversight of Police and Security Service

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  • Mike Fedorowich

    September 1, 2023 |

    I have gone through the above noted text and have found it quite informative.
    I am a former member with several law enforcement agencies from across Canada.
    I worked in the First Nations service under the authority of the RCMP with the over sight of the OPP. My law enforcement service was conducted under the authority of the Nishnawbe – Aski Police Service in North West Ontario the Louis Bull Police Sevice in Hobbema AB, the Kitasoo Xaixais Police Service in Northern in side passage on Swindle Island, the Lac Suel Police Service North West Ontario and the Vancouver Transit Authority Sky Train Police Service. I’m presently dealing with an RCMP member for falsifying a report against me for a road rage event. Court case is finished and the charge was dropped but I have an on going complaint with the member and have forwarded to the WATCH DOGS IN OTTAWA FOR the RCMP review and consideration. I believe the said officer is in violation of his oath of office and should be held accountable for falsifying his RTCC all the while dragging me through the court system here in Nanaimo. RCMP continue to stonewall the appeal but Ottawa and the crowns office are still looking into the matter. if your able and find the time or the interest in this very brief introduction, I would very much like to speak with you and would be grateful to hear any wisdom that may come across from your end. I served with First Nations Police Services for ten years in isolation and six years with Transit Police out of New West Minster. I do value and appreciate any time you could spare to chat for a bit on this particular subject matter. Respectfully with out anger but an open mind, Mike Fedorowich Nanaimo BC 250 667 0060

  • Harold McNeill

    February 28, 2022 |

    Hi Robert, I do remember some of those folks from my early years in Cold Lake (Hazel was my aunt and our family spent many fond times with Uncle Melvin, Aunt Hazel and Family. I knew Lawrence and Adrian. Having read a half dozen accounts it is clear their were many false narratives and, perhaps, a few truths along the way. I tried my best to provide an even account from what I read. Cheers, Harold. (email: Harold@mcneillifestories.com)

  • Robert Martineau

    February 25, 2022 |

    Its been a long time since any post here, but its worth a shot. My Grandfather was Hazel Wheelers brother Lawrence, and son to Maggie and Adrien. Maggie Martineau (nee Delaney) is my great grandmother. The books and articles to date are based on the white mans viewpoint and the real story as passed down by the Elders in my family is much more nefarious. Some of the white men were providing food for the Indians in exchange for sexual favors performed by the Squaws. Maggie was the product of one of those encounters. Although I am extremely proud of my family and family name, I am ashamed about this part of it.

  • Julue

    January 28, 2022 |

    Good morning Harold!
    Gosh darn it, you are such a good writer. I hope you have been writing a book about your life. It could be turned into a movie.
    Thanks for this edition to your blog.
    I pray that Canadians will keep their cool this weekend and next week in Ottawa. How do you see our PM handling it? He has to do something and quick!
    Xo Julie

  • Herb Craig

    December 14, 2021 |

    As always awesome job Harold. It seems whatever you do in life the end result is always the same professional, accurate, inclusive and entertaining. You have always been a class act and a great fellow policeman to work with. We had some awesome times together my friend. I will always hold you close as a true friend. Keep up the good work. Hope to see you this summer.
    Warm regards
    Herb Craig

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Hi Dorthy, So glad you found those stories and, yes, they hold many fond memories. Thanks to social media and the blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with many friends from back in the day. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Well, well. Pleased to see your name pop up. I’m in regular contact via FB with many ‘kids’ from back in our HS days (Guy, Dawna, Shirley and others). Also, a lot of Cold Lake friends through FB. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Oh, that is many years back and glad you found the story. I don’t have any recall of others in my class other than the Murphy sisters on whose farm my Dad and Mom worked.

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Pleased to hear from you Howie and trust all is going well. As with you, I have a couple of sad stories of times in my police career when I crossed paths with Ross Barrington Elworthy. Just haven’t had the time to write those stories.

  • Howie Siegel

    November 25, 2021 |

    My only fight at Pagliacci’s was a late Sunday night in 1980 (?) He ripped the towel machine off the bathroom wall which brought me running. He came after me, I grabbed a chair and cracked him on the head which split his skull and dropped him. I worried about the police finding him on the floor. I had just arrived from Lasqueti Island and wasn’t convinced the police were my friends. I dragged him out to Broad and Fort and left him on the sidewalk, called the cops. They picked him up and he never saw freedom again (as far as I know). I found out it was Ross Elworthy.