Bryan Raiser’s dream of continuing to operate his medical marijuana dispensary in Squamish may go up in smoke.
Raiser told The Squamish Chief that an RCMP officer visited with a letter that gave him until March 19 to close his 99 North Medical Cannabis Dispensary or face legal consequences.
“Now I have some hard decisions to make. I really want to continue helping our community by providing this service, but I can’t be arrested. I can’t lose my family because of this,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “I am having a very hard time believing this is happening.”
The dispensary, which Raiser opened on Feb. 16 at 37769 Second Avenue in downtown Squamish, offers marijuana in various forms, including dried cannabis, oils, edible and topical marijuana. Patients can obtain medical marijuana with a prescription from their health care practitioner that must be faxed to the dispensary or via documents confirming a diagnosis of specific conditions such as cancer, anxiety or arthritis, he explained.
A former district councillor who lost his seat in the November elections and a well known community volunteer, Raiser is the owner and sole employee of the dispensary.
The RCMP letter, delivered March 5, indicates, “they are not in a position to turn a blind eye,” Raiser said. In the letter, RCMP refer to marijuana dispensaries as “illegal.”
He believes the police want to “do the right thing” by allowing him to operate but cannot. “None of them are evil men, but granted, they do have to follow orders.”
Raiser said he’s been overwhelmed with positive responses from the patients who have been purchasing marijuana at the dispensary, and now he’s hoping an outpouring of community support will help.
“I have to consider my options. I am not comfortable sacrificing my family and home to help the community. After 20 years of sacrificing for the community, I end up losing my house? I don’t want to be charged,” he said.
“I am hoping the community speaks as to what they want to see happen,” said Raiser. “I have to figure it out. I really don’t want to close the doors. I really don’t think anybody wants those doors to close. But I am in possession of a letter that does not paint a pretty picture if the doors remain open.”
Raiser said access to safe medicine is one of the rights upon which Canadian society is built. “Having to fight for it just seems wrong.”
He hopes council will come forward by expressing support for the dispensary. “Council can’t dictate what the RCMP do,” he acknowledged, but added that “they have full power to change the RCMP budget.”
Mayor Patricia Heintzman said the issue has not been discussed at council, but her personal belief is that marijuana has been proven to be beneficial medically for some.
“Whatever works for their health issues, they should be allowed to choose it and choose it safely,” she said.
Raiser said he has invested his personal funds and also borrowed from others to open the shop. “I am in the hole for thousands. I am going to be losing a lot of money on this. There are a lot of very supportive people who were willing to lend me money for this.”
But he said the worst effect will be on the patients who need a safe supply of marijuana to help them cope with medical conditions.
“I am going to have a very hard time saying, ‘Back to the streets with you.’ I don’t know how I am going to do that, actually. I am devastated by this…. Every day, I am dealing with people crying in my office.”
Raiser said he has not made a final decision on whether to close. “That’s where it is leaning, but I haven’t decided anything yet. I am weighing my options. I want the community to speak up about this, write letters, do what they can.”
He questioned why Vancouver Police turn a blind eye to about 60 medical marijuana dispensaries operating in the city while RCMP crack down on dispensaries in Squamish and Sechelt. “You know things are messed up when the RCMP are being put in a position to force vulnerable patients into alleys to get their medicine.”