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North Vancouver Marijuana Dispensary to Open in Deep Cove

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If all goes according to plan, Deep Cove will soon be home to the North Shore's first marijuana dispensary.

The Re-Leaf Dispensary Society, a non-profit group founded by Deep Cove resident Ken Starr, plans to open a store in a small commercial complex near the corner of Mount Seymour Parkway and Deep Cove Road some time next month. The organization has rented a space in the strip and is in the process of renovating. The outlet will sell marijuana to people who use it for medical purposes.

"Our goal is to help everyone who has a legitimate medical need," said Starr, who will own and manage the operation.

"I believe we're sort of a destination spot. . . . I don't want it to be out in everyone's face."

Starr said the store will only sell to society members, and to become a member, a customer must present proof of a legal exemption to drug possession laws granted by Health Canada, or a doctor's prescription or recommendation. The last two must be faxed to the store directly from a doctor's office, said Starr.

Although the organization has been registered with the province as a non-profit group, it does not have an exemption from Health Canada permitting it to sell the drug, said Starr. It also doesn't have a business licence from the District of North Vancouver, he said, explaining that the municipality doesn't issue those to non-profit dispensaries.

"We're sort of in a grey zone, legally," said Starr. "Health Canada has set up the guidelines we abide by."

Starr made assurances that the dispensary would not compromise the safety of the neighbourhood. Any customer found sharing or selling the drug or using it in the vicinity of the store would have their membership revoked, he said. The premises will be secured with an alarm and video cameras, and no drugs or cash will be left on site at night.

Meanwhile, Starr's lawyer is trying to set up a meeting with the local RCMP to discuss the dispensary. "I don't think police and the medical communities need to be adversaries," said Kirk Tousaw.

None of the store's products will come from criminal organizations, added Starr. Rather, the marijuana will be bought from growers who themselves have exemptions from Health Canada allowing them to produce it for personal consumption.

"There is no official response to what they're supposed to do with the leftovers," he said. "It's become standard practice that they sell it to dispensaries. . . . It seems to be an allowed practice."

If police do raid the dispensary, Starr's lawyer believes a constitutional challenge would likely ensue. Courts across Canada have already found the federal government's system for licensing dispensaries to be overly restrictive, Tousaw said. Right now, compassion clubs like Re-Leaf are the only way to fill the gap.

At the moment, North Shore users of medical marijuana -- which Starr estimates number in the hundreds -- have to go to the Vancouver Dispensary Society's outlets on Hastings and Thurlow Streets to fill prescriptions. Many suffer from serious illnesses or disabilities, making the journey something of a trial. Under the circumstances, it's inevitable that a dispensary will at some point open here, he argued.

"If it's going to come to the North Shore, I want to make sure it's done right," said Starr.

The store will continue to be run as a non-profit, with proceeds from sales going to cover overhead costs. Those costs will include paying staff, however, such as him.

"I'm not looking to get rich," said Starr.

News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: vancouversun.com
Author: James Weldon
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Copyright: Postmedia Network Inc.
Website: North Vancouver marijuana dispensary to open in Deep Cove
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