Vancouver marijuana dispensaries reveal how much they're selling and where it's all coming from

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      It was barely 10 a.m. and Weeds Glass and Gifts marijuana dispensary was already buzzing. Three women in their early 20s cheerfully helped customers match pot strains to ailments while a fourth checked inventory with a clipboard. Right on schedule, a man carrying a black sports bag walked through the front door, said a friendly hello, and proceeded to a back room to meet the shop’s owner, Don Briere.

      “You can see everything he’s got right here,” Briere said as the man began unpacking. There were six clear ziplock bags, each with a half-pound of dried marijuana inside, plus another three bags containing a combined 6,800 “canna caps”—gel capsules filled with concentrated THC extract.

      “Everything is recorded; everything is tracked,” Briere said as he reached for a company invoice. Deliveries are mostly scheduled for set times at regular intervals. “It’s like running a restaurant or bar,” he added.

      On April 28, Vancouver city council received a draft regulatory framework for medicinal-marijuana dispensaries. Now on its way to a public hearing, the document includes a new class of business licence specifically for marijuana storefronts, plus rules concerning the drug’s over-the-counter sale.

      Absent from the proposal is any mention of supply.

      If each of Vancouver’s more than 80 dispensaries sells between one and three pounds of cannabis per day—an amount a half-dozen operators told the Straight can serve as a rough average—the question of where it all comes from is a big one.

      That means Vancouver’s marijuana shops collectively move 80 to 240 pounds of product every 24 hours, which dwarfs what’s sold across the entire country through Health Canada’s official mail-order system. Statistics provided by the federal government show that as of February 2015, Ottawa’s 25 authorized producers sell an average of 44 pounds per day.

      The man delivering to Weeds Glass and Gifts told the Straight he grows under a personal production licence Health Canada issued under its old Marihuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR). (The MMAR was re­placed by the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations [MMPR] in 2014, but individuals with MMAR permits can still continue to grow pending the outcome of a court challenge.)

      Briere revealed he works with about 15 similar suppliers who all operate under the old MMAR licences. Because they only allow for personal consumption, it’s still an illegal source, he conceded. But Briere argued that they’re following the spirit of the law, if not the letter.

      One of the city’s oldest dispen­saries, the B.C. Compassion Club, buys from “five or six” illegal growers, said Jamie Shaw, a spokesperson for the group. She maintained that this doesn’t mean their suppliers are untrustworthy. Shaw noted that some have sold to the nonprofit under exclusive arrangements maintained for more than two decades.

      “The B.C. Compassion Club has been working with these growers for a very long time,” she said.

      Shaw, however, emphasized that the industry would welcome regulations covering the supply side, just as most dispensary operators have expressed support for the city’s proposed rules for sales.

      “Our growers want a program that works, and if there was such a thing, they would jump on it,” she said.

      Sensible B.C. campaign coordinator Dana Larsen told the Straight his club, the Vancouver Dispensary Society, isn’t as picky about a supplier’s legal standing because everybody selling bulk to a dispensary is breaking the law. The society buys from an assortment of growers, he revealed, some of whom hold Health Canada permits while others do not. “I would love to have our suppliers regulated in a better way,” he added. “That’s going to be the next step, eventually.”

      Addressing concerns about organized crime, Larsen argued that your stereotypical biker gang simply isn’t present in Vancouver’s medicinal marijuana community. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I’ve never met anybody who was a Hells Angel or who was involved in any kind of violence or anything like that,” he said.

      According to VPD spokesperson Const. Brian Montague, police have raided nine storefronts since the industry entered its phase of rapid expansion about three years ago. He said that although the VPD has found evidence organized crime is taking an interest in dispensaries, none of those nine police actions were primarily in response to such a link.

      “If we believe there is a relationship with organized crime, of course that would play a role in our decision of whether or not to conduct enforcement,” Montague said. “But while illegal, some of these businesses are generally operating in a very responsible manner. So you don’t want to paint them with a broad brush.”

      Comments

      12 Comments

      kootenaygirl

      Apr 29, 2015 at 4:17pm

      "Yeah, right"--"If we believe there is a relationship with organized crime" la de da! Just who is
      Const. Montague fooling. The VPD has turned a blind eye on all this for years. Sources
      tell me that the amount of marijuana moving in to WA state has trickled down to nearly nothing. How can this be? Who is on the take here? Is all this more money laundering?
      Oops, the RCMP who would be checking in on all this have been transferred out by Harper for activities related to Bill C-51.

      Just who is in charge in this province, folks?

      Jon Q. Publik

      Apr 29, 2015 at 7:23pm

      Travis may want to update this article to 10 storefronts raided, considering that the Weeds Glass and Gifts store - focus of this article was raided today, April 29th for selling to a 15 year old.

      Med User

      Apr 29, 2015 at 8:15pm

      re kootenaygirl "Sources tell me that the amount of marijuana moving in to WA state has trickled down to nearly nothing. How can this be?"

      Because cannabis is fully legal in WA state. Why would they keep importing it illegally from Canada now that they've legalized?

      DOnt think so

      Apr 30, 2015 at 12:09am

      "Washington state is fully legal". I dont think so.

      Importing, selling, and possesion are still FEDERAL crimes in the USA. It is legal to posess according to Washington STATE law but not accoring to US Federal Law. This is why sometimes when you cross the border into the US whose border agents have federal jurisdiciton, you migh get a seeminly innocuous question as I did, spoken by the border agent in a joking tone to entrap . hHe handed back the passport,as if to signal we were done and then in a 'joking' tone added "Gonna buy some marijuana ?"

      I said no.

      Be aware it is still a federal crime.

      good to know

      Apr 30, 2015 at 12:16am

      so the "cannabis dispensaries are forced to rely on illegal sources."
      so they are getting their pot from the streets to sell to you. hmmm
      and the owners-or persons working in these places.. (not of this place but others as reported earlier (and oh shocker...) have criminal records.
      so more criminal activity?.. way to go Vancouver.

      so isn't this whole idea just another way of saying "drug dealer" using a store front to sell illegal drugs?? with 60+plus stores now in the city?
      oh boy .
      first off, NO ONE with any criminal past should be working, owning, one of these place (even on paper) selling or distributing it period. something is terribly wrong here. wait and see... it gonna be a nightmare.

      Dee Chardain

      Apr 30, 2015 at 10:26am

      Marijuana is a powerful plant medicine & need be respected as such - not used for inebriation. As a 40 year smoker - now clean for 5 years - I have lots of anecdotal insight about these matters.

      Today, plenty of my friends & acquaintances go for their medical use or grow licences with a wink and a smirk. What was 'peace, love & good vibes' back from the 60's has IMO inverted into an overall negative. The growers have GMOed the weed - through successive breeding - into something else - for it's crunchy appearance, bouquet & shock attack on the nervous system. 'Heroinjuana.'

      There is a legit medical prescription for natural marijuana for certain cancers, m.s. etc ... but inebriation solves nothing - personally or societally. David Suzuki documented the research of science implicating these GMOed weeds triggering early onset adolescent schizophrenia and in my experience I've seen plenty of adult onset ganja psychosis.

      To all of those craving weed for anxiety control ... those of you always striving but never arriving. How about address the root cause of anxiety. Buddha speaks in the 8 Fold Path about 'right effort;' ... Jesus/Yashua/Grandfather (whatever name suits you) speaks about "To them who overcome will find everliving life;" ... all the self-help teaches speak about "The power of Positive Thinking."

      Abusing the powerful plant medicines for inebriation is a a crutch - not a solution ... not a healing!

      Barry William Teske

      Apr 30, 2015 at 12:14pm

      Hmmm...what to do.
      Drug dealer.
      War dealer.
      Hate dealer.
      Arms dealer.
      Political spin dealer...
      So many choices!

      Med User

      May 1, 2015 at 1:37pm

      @Dee Chardin
      Oh noes!!!
      "Crunchy GMO shock-attack Heroinjuana" is coming to eat your babies!

      Selective breeding isn't genetic modification. The psychosis correlation has been debunked to the moon and back, as correlation is not causation, and it completely ignores early childhood development. The only thing I agree with you about is that cannabis can be a crutch.
      CRUTCHES HELP PEOPLE WALK.

      hmmm

      May 1, 2015 at 5:08pm

      how come the "Sick" that need "medical pot" are those between 19-35?
      seems there are soooooooooooooooooo many sick young people in Vancouver.
      Never in my life have I seen so many "ohhhhh poor me" people.

      Now if you had cancer , terminally ill, or 80, I could understand. Those people should have it
      IF they want it.

      But let's be clear, the group that wants "medical pot storefronts" just want to get high.
      The Granville party goers, slackers, coachella-goers, tokers, hipsters, stoners, and those that just want to zone out on life, (and I doubt ANYONE of them is medically ill)
      See the difference?

      Med User

      May 1, 2015 at 8:15pm

      @hmmm
      "how come the "Sick" that need "medical pot" are those between 19-35?"
      "Now if you had cancer , terminally ill, or 80, I could understand."

      Maybe the age gap is related to where people get their information from, what kind of media they consume. With the younger demographic moving away from corporate/state media towards online independent media, they're more likely to know that:

      Tylenol is an anandamide reuptake inhibitor, it increases levels of anandamide to reduce activation of pain receptors. Tylenol unfortunately, destroys your liver. THC is very similar to anandamide, reducing pain through the endocannabinoid system, but without damaging the liver, making cannabis a much safer alternative to dangerous drugs like Tylenol.

      So yeah, most of the people visiting dispensaries aren't dying, that's a good thing. Cannabis isn't just for catastrophic illnesses, it's perfect for bumps, bruises, everyday pains, even royal PMS, Queen Victoria's doctor prescribed her Cannabis tea for her menstrual cramps.