SASKATOON – The owner of a Saskatoon community medical marijuana dispensary says he will not close his doors after receiving a recent letter from Health Canada warning him to cease operations or face a police investigation. Mark Hauk, founder of the Saskatoon Compassion Club, says he opened the business in reaction to federal regulations he calls unreasonable. The only reason he says he would close his doors would be if those regulations were changed.
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In its letter to Hauk and 12 other similar dispensaries across the country, Health Canada wrote that his operation must stop within 30 days or else the agency would turn his case over to RCMP. Hauk could face up a $5-million fine and spend as many as two years in prison.
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“I’ve never been arrested, I’ve never been to jail, nor do I want to,” said Hauk to reporters at Saskatoon’s city hall Monday.
Hauk previously asked city council to have the municipality regulate the medical marijuana business in Saskatoon. His operation is technically illegal under current law. The matter was before the Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners Monday at city hall.
“We’re working with Health Canada and the federal prosecutions on this and we’re just trying to sort out how they want to handle these,” said Saskatoon police Chief Clive Weighill.
“We have nearly 400 members today, many of whom are cancer or multiple sclerosis sufferers and if I close the doors today there isn’t another community based dispensary for them to access,” said Hauk.
Not everyone in the medical marijuana business feels the same way Hauk does. Brent Zettl, president and CEO of Prairie Plant Systems, which operates a company that produces regulated medical pot, was at the meeting Monday and questioned the quality of unregulated dispensaries.
“We’ve heard from a lot of our patients who go to the dispensary that they’ve been given very inaccurate information,” said Zettl to reporters at city hall.
“Number two is that the type of products they get is quite questionable.”
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Zettl says his company’s product undergoes a stringent quality control process that doesn’t occur within unregulated dispensaries.
“I don’t think our city council should be in the business of picking and choosing which laws they follow,” said Zettl.
Hauk says he’s in favour of tougher regulations for operations like his and questioned why Zettl choose to single out his community operation.
“If they really, truly cared about patients as they’re claiming today, they would be at Health Canada’s office, lobbying them to amend the regulations to be reasonable, not bothering the city of Saskatoon and protecting their own financial interests,” said Hauk.
The matter will now go to the Saskatoon Police Service for further review and to produce a report on their findings.