Ottawa threatens to bypass VPD and send in RCMP to bust Vancouver marijuana dispensaries

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      The Vancouver Police Department is playing it cool in response to the suggestion the RCMP could be on its way into the City of Vancouver to shut down marijuana dispensaries.

      "We have a great working relationship with the RCMP,” VPD Const. Brian Montague told the Straight. “I'll let them [RCMP] respond to any insinuation that they are going to come into Vancouver.”

      The spokesperson for the force made those remarks in response to the distribution of letters sent from Health Canada to a number of Vancouver marijuana dispensaries. In those documents, Ottawa threatens to send RCMP officers into the City of Vancouver.

      “If the [named dispensary redacted] does not immediately cease all activities with controlled substances, we will contact, within 30 days of the date of this letter, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for enforcement action as they deem necessary,” reads a copy of the letter posted online at

      “The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) prohibits any person from engaging in activities such as production, provision, sale (including offering for sale, import, export, transport, delivering of controlled substances unless authorized under its Regulations),” it continues.

      The letters do not include an individual’s signature but are marked “Office of Medical Cannabis” and “Health Canada”.

      In an email to the Straight, Health Canada spokesperson Patrick Gaebel subsequently confirmed the letters' authenticity.

      "On September 9, 2015, the Department (Office of Medical Cannabis) sent 13 letters to organizations who were found to be illegally advertising the sale of marijuana. The letters require that all advertising activities with marijuana cease," Gaebel wrote. "Health Canada will attempt to work cooperatively with all parties involved to encourage compliance. If continued non-compliance is identified, the Department may refer the case to law enforcement agencies for appropriate action."

      If RCMP officers did cross into Vancouver and began to shut down marijuana storefronts, that would be a de facto overruling of both the City of Vancouver and the VPD. Those bodies have at least tacitly worked together on a hands-off approach while stating publicly that the illegal dispensaries are simply not a policing priority.

      On the prospect of the RCMP conducting policing activities within the City of Vancouver and without the VPD’s cooperation, Montague declined to comment further and directed questions to the RCMP.

      Speaking more generally, Montague said the nature of the Lower Mainland means the VPD and RCMP work together on a routine basis and regularly coordinate regional policing efforts.

      “The Vancouver police will go into RCMP jurisdiction cities like Surrey, Coquitlam, and Richmond, to investigate crimes that originated in Vancouver,” he explained. “Of course criminals don’t look at city borders so there are often cases that take us beyond the City of Vancouver as well as cases the RCMP would have that would take them into our jurisdiction.”

      On September 9, 2015, Health Canada began sending letters to Vancouver dispensaries warning that if they did not cease all unsanctioned activities with marijuana, further action could be taken by the RCMP.

      The RCMP refused to grant an interview.

      In June 2015, the City of Vancouver responded to a proliferation of marijuana storefronts by adopting a legal framework and regulations that Mayor Gregor Robertson has said will bring order to an illegal industry that the federal Conservative government has ignored.

      Today (September 10) Robertson responded to the alleged Health Canada letter by calling it “curious”.

      According to the Globe and Mail’s Andrea Woo, Robertson added he is hopeful the federal government “actually does something meaningful here -- has some modern policy toward marijuana”.

      It's estimated there are more than 90 cannabis shops operating within Vancouver city limits.

      In April 2015, Canadian Health Minister Rona Ambrose and Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney co-signed a letter sent to Robertson and the VPD wherein they expressed Ottawa's disapproval of Vancouver's plan to regulate those dispensaries.

      “Storefront sales of marijuana are illegal and under our government, will remain illegal,” it reads. “Like the vast majority of Canadians, the Government expects that police will enforce the laws of Canada as written.”

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      Sep 10, 2015 at 3:42pm

      Maybe the Con thinking is if we put enough pot smokers in jail there will be no room for the Duffys, Wrights and other Con- victs

      Rich Shay

      Sep 10, 2015 at 3:45pm

      About time. It would make city regulation process easier with a blank slate.

      just saying

      Sep 10, 2015 at 6:17pm

      The RCMP is a federal police department. They actually have the authority to enforce laws anywhere in the country and they don't need to ask other departments to assist. Source: Wikipedia


      Sep 10, 2015 at 7:05pm

      “Like the vast majority of Canadians, the Government expects that police will enforce the laws of Canada as written.”

      If the police enforced the laws as written they would never arrive at the scene of a crime because they would be too busy handing out traffic tickets on the way. The police need to prioritize, and they do.

      Con Service

      Sep 10, 2015 at 7:46pm

      Headline should read "Desperate Despot threatens to send in federal stormtroopers to usurp decisions by civic government in bid for cheap votes through theatrics"

      Leo Quigley

      Sep 10, 2015 at 7:50pm

      The horseman best leave well enough alone.


      Sep 10, 2015 at 8:00pm

      Isn't it time to ignore these idiots in Ottawa and their feeble-minded supporters? October 19th. Get out to vote! Help rid Canada of the Harper Government™.

      Rained out

      Sep 10, 2015 at 8:50pm

      This is a play to Harper's base. The 30 day expiry is timed perfectly to get out the vote on October 19th. Send in the Mounties and generate some photo ops for Rona Ambrose and the rigid conservative class will hit the polls in droves.


      Sep 10, 2015 at 10:42pm

      It's ok to sell drugs, but you have to pay the city $30,000.
      Whether you're pro-pot or not, it's not hard to see why the feds don't like Gregor's policy.

      Ashley Fulks

      Sep 10, 2015 at 11:46pm

      The Supreme Court ruled that marijuana was to be regulated by Health Canada. The regulations are too restrictive and over complicated.

      “Like the vast majority of Canadians, the Government expects that police will enforce the laws of Canada as written.”

      I am not worried. In a couple months we will have a different Government. A sensible one.