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


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 standing 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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  • Harold McNeill

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Rick,
    Great to hear from you and trust all is going well. Our family members are all doing well but it must be pretty tough for a lot of people. I had once heard you were going to do some writing but never heard anything further. I would be most interested, but do you think the OB News have archives back to that time. Any link or information you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Did you keep copies? Regards, Harold

  • Rick Gonder

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Harold
    About 22 years ago I spent several weeks going through the OBPD archives. I wrote several stories that were published in the OB News. Feel free to use if they are of value to what you are doing.
    Keep this up, I’m enjoying it and it brings back memories.

  • Harold McNeill

    April 12, 2020 |

    Hi Susan,

    Glad you had a chance to read. I decided to update these stories by proofreading as there were several grammatical errors in many. Hopefully, many of those glaring errors have been removed.

    Many of the stories carry a considerable amount of social comment regarding the way the criminal justice system is selectively applied. Next up involves a young woman from near Cold Lake, Alberta, who was abducted by an older male from Edmonton. Her story is the story of hundreds of young men and woman who have found themselves alone and without help when being prayed upon unscrupulous predators.

    Cheers, Harold

  • Susan

    April 8, 2020 |

    Great read, Harold!…and really not surprising, sad as that may sound.
    Keep the stories coming, it is fascinating to hear them.
    Love from us out here in the “sticks”, and stay safe from this unknown predator called Covid.

  • Harold McNeill

    February 17, 2020 |

    Update:  Times Colonist, February 16, 2020, articles by Louise Dickson, She got her gun back, then she killed herself,” and,  Mounties decision to return gun to PTSD victim haunts her brother. 

    Summary: I don’t know how many read the above articles, but they contained the tragic details about young woman, Krista Carle’, who took her own life after suffering for years with PTSD. While tragedies such as this play out across Canada every week, the reason this story resonates so profoundly is that the final, tragic, conclusion took place here in Victoria. Continued in the article.

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    February 15, 2020 |

    Testing the comments section after changes made. Updated: February 10, 2020

    Further to the update below (February 1, 2020), I note that since the government announced a “No-Fault” insurance plan for BC, Robert Mulligan is taking a slightly different tack, suggesting that no-fault will only increase the problems by taking away the right of an injured party to sue.

    I’ve copied just one sentence from Mulligan’s longer discussion, “And I think people don’t like the idea that somebody who’s, for example, was drunk and ran into you and you become a quadriplegic is going to be treated exactly the same way you would in terms of getting benefits (go to minute 00:15:26 to see his full comment)

    Statements like this appear to be simple fear-mongering. As was the case in the past, people who commit criminal offences, as well as other forms of negligence while driving, may well lose their insurance coverage and in all likelihood would be sued by ICBC to recover costs of the claim. (Link here to Mulligan’s full conversation on CFAX radio)

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    September 18, 2019 |

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