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ON: Marijuana Dispensary Set To Open In Stittsville, Local Councillor Is Unhappy

Katelyn Baker

Well-Known Member
A medical marijuana dispensary about to open in Stittsville has sparked a spat between the city councillor for the suburb and the entrepreneur who owns the business.

Coun. Shad Qadri says it would be irresponsible of Magna Terra Health Services on Iber Road to operate without a licence and within a "mere 15-minute walk" of two schools.

Dispensary owner Franco Vigile accuses Qadri of trying to "install fear in the community." He says he'll run the illegal dispensary safely and responsibly. He held an open house Tuesday and another is planned for Wednesday to get public comments. He hopes to open for business in the next few weeks, says Vigile, who is also part owner of a marijuana dispensary on Carling Avenue.

There are now eight dispensaries in town, part of a wave of such shops popping up across the country. The federal government has warned that marijuana dispensaries are illegal and the products they sell are untested and possibly unsafe.

Ottawa police say the drug and intelligence units are investigating the shops but so far have taken no action against them.

Vigile says he's aiming for a "gold standard" among dispensaries. His staff take a course on medical marijuana and there is a registered nurse on staff. He says it's unfair of Qadri to call Magna Terra a storefront, since no one can walk in off the street and buy marijuana. The receptionist buzzes clients in after checking their face on a video camera. The waiting room looks like a doctor's office, and the products are kept in an adjoining room. Customers must have a doctor's prescription for marijuana.

Medical marijuana is legal in Canada if purchased from a producer licensed by Health Canada, such as the large Tweed operation in Smiths Falls. Licensed producers can sell only dried weed or oil, and must send it by mail.

Vigile says the legal mail-order system does not provide the variety of products or convenience of his dispensary.

In a newsletter to his constituents, Qadri says patients can already receive marijuana from safe, reliable and legal operations like Tweed. "While I appreciate the medicinal benefits that marijuana may provide to patients suffering from both physical and mental illnesses an operation of this nature opening and operating willingly without a licence is irresponsible to both local residents and clientele being serviced ... "

Qadri said two schools are nearby, a factor that would have been taken into consideration by a licensed establishment. The Stittsville dispensary is 1.3 km from Jean Paul II Elementary and 1.2 km from Paul-Desmarais High School.

Qadri's newsletter said he "will work closely with Ottawa Police to ensure that this facility does not over step the bounds of what is legal and that community needs are met."

The Stittsville Village Association has not had a chance to discuss the issue, but vice-president Glen Gower says he's heard comments in the community and on social media. "I think in general people are accepting and fairly open to the concept. I haven't heard any opposition to it, except from the councillor."

Most people realize that marijuana will soon be legalized, so consider such businesses to be in a "grey area," he added.

Vigile said he is opening dispensaries without Health Canada approval because he wants to help people now, and to demonstrate to the government that they can be run responsibly. His dispensary on Carling Avenue, formerly known as Ottawa Medical Dispensary but renamed Magna Terra, has 1,200 clients.

One of them is Brendon Somppi, who was at the open house in Stittsville on Tuesday. Somppi said he also buys marijuana from a licensed producer, but there isn't enough variety and the mail shipments are sometimes late.

He also appreciates chatting with staff at the dispensary. "Having someone know my name, say, 'Hi, how are you feeling today?' It makes all the difference in the world." On the advice of staff at the Carling Avenue dispensary, he has tried cannabis cotton candy, gummy bears and cannabis oil.

"This is not going to your buddy's basement to score some dope," says Somppi, who uses marijuana for fibromyalgia, sleep apnea and autism. "This is a professionally run business."

Two other city councillors have spoken out against dispensaries. Coun. Matthieu Fleury has asked police to shut down the two shops on Montreal Road, and Coun. Riley Brockington is upset about a dispensary across the street from a school in his River Ward. Both councillors have asked bylaw staff for information on how and whether the city should license the shops, an idea pioneered in Vancouver.

Coun. Jeff Leiper says there have been no complaints about Vigile's dispensary on Carling Avenue. Coun. Catherine McKenney, who has three dispensaries in her downtown ward, did not return calls over the past several weeks. Her staff said she was too busy to comment, and on Tuesday said she was on vacation. Mayor Jim Watson has maintained a silence on the issue, with his staff saying for the past month that he was "not available" to comment or was out of town.


News Moderator: Katelyn Baker 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: Marijuana Dispensary Set To Open In Stittsville, And The Local Councillor Is Unhappy
Author: Staff
Contact: 1-613-829-9100
Photo Credit: None Found
Website: Ottawa Citizen
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