Pot dispensary owner charged

Illegal medical marijuana dispensaries are not just for big cities anymore. Earlier this month, RCMP made good on a September 2015 Health Canada warning threatening to shut down Martin Medical Services in Whitewood.

In a raid on the business and home of owner Jerry Martin November 8, police seized undisclosed quantities of marijuana, hash oil and cash along with cellphones, computers and three vehicles. He is charged with trafficking marijuana, possession of marijuana, trafficking cannabis resin, possession of cannabis resin, possession of proceeds of crime, trafficking proceeds of crime and laundering proceeds of crime.

Martin has become something of a folk hero to some in the town of 950 approximately one hour south of Yorkton and a villain to others.

Since he opened the business four years ago, Martin has donated an estimated $115,000 to various organizations including large sums to the Whitewood Swimming Pool, Whitewood Community Health Centre and Whitewood/Chacachas Rodeo.

Not everybody has accepted Martin’s money, however. The Whitewood Fire Board refused a $10,000 offer.

Following an initial court appearance November 9, intense media and public interest in the case prompted Whitewood mayor Doug Armstrong and the town council to issue a statement in a press release.

“The personal/collective opinions of Mayor and Council are of no consequence in this situation,” the document stated. “Mayor and Council do not direct the actions of the RCMP, as their actions are guided by the laws of our province and country. Mayor and Council respect the legal process and have no role in influencing the outcome of this legal matter.”

Martin slammed Armstrong in a letter-to-the-editor published in the November 25 edition of the Whitewood Herald for not taking a stand in support of Martin Medical Services and pleading with the community to back his legal battle.

A self-described “activist” Martin told CTV news after the November 9 court appearance that he will not stop fighting for the right to run the business.

“We have been raided and unconstitutionally shut down and charged after four years,” a banner at the top of his website now reads. “[One thousand] members will suffer over greed from the Liberal Government.”

A Go Fund Me campaign has so far raised close to $6,000 of a $50,000 goal to mount a constitutional challenge against the existing regulations.

Medical marijuana currently exists in a grey area of the law. It is legal to use with a prescription and to grow a limited quantity for personal use as long as the grower has registered to do so with Health Canada under new Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes regulations introduced in August.

There are also a limited number (36) of larger scale licenced producers who are “authorized to produce and sell to the public may sell or provide dried marijuana, fresh marijuana, cannabis oil, or starting materials to eligible persons,” according to the Health Canada website.

Businesses such as Martin’s are illegal, but are often ignored by authorities. Some cities, such as Vancouver, BC, have actually started to regulate dispensaries with licencing agreements, although they remain illegal under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Nevertheless, medical pot is a very low priority for many law enforcement agencies, particularly in large cities.

Martin’s case was again before provincial court judge Ross Green November 23, who adjourned it to December 7. Martin has retained Kirk Tousaw, a British Columbia-based attorney who specializes in medical cannabis compliance.

The federal Crown has assigned Saskatoon prosecutor Robin Neufeld.

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