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Burnaby medical marijuana shop raided by RCMP

A medical marijuana dispensary was raided by the RCMP in Burnaby yesterday, the latest in a string of crackdowns against B.C. pot distributors this summer.

Federal police agents made three arrests and seized marijuana, patient files, personal computers, and business documents during yesterday's noon-hour raid of Metrotown Medical Marijuana Dispensary.

The dispensary opened last April, The Tyee reported at the time. It is Burnaby's sole medical marijuana distributor.

While officials from both the RCMP and Health Canada maintain that medical marijuana dispensaries are illegal in Canada, medical marijuana advocates says such raids violate previous court rulings and are unconstitutional.

The three suspects apprehended during yesterday's raid were arrested on possible charges of drug trafficking, possession of an illegal substance with intent to traffic, and other related violations. Two of those arrested are said to have arrived at the dispensary in the middle of the raid. All three were subsequently released on a Promise to Appear arrangement.

"It is a violation of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to dispense marijuana," says Corporal Rick Skolrood, a media relations official for the Burnaby detachment of the RCMP. Accordingly, there are only two legal ways to obtain medical marijuana in Canada: "You get it from Health Canada or you get a license to produce it yourself."

The Burnaby RCMP agents conducted the raid after consulting with officials at Health Canada, says Skolrood.

"Health Canada does not license organizations such as 'compassion clubs' or cannabis dispensaries' to possess, produce, or distribute marihuana[sic] for medical purposes," wrote Leslie Meerburg, media relations officer for Health Canada, in an emailed response to The Tyee. In other words, under the federal government's current interpretation of the law, medical marijuana dispensaries of any kind are illegal.

But many medical marijuana advocates disagree with such an interpretation.

"The Controlled Drug and Substance Act as it pertains to marijuana has been declared unconstitutional," says Jacob Hunter, policy director for the Beyond Prohibition Foundation, a non-profit that supports the legalization of marijuana.

Yesterday's raid in Burnaby marks the fourth federal operation against a B.C. pot dispensary this month.

"We've never seen anything like this in the 15 year history of dispensaries in British Columbia," says Hunter. "The callousness with which this government is attacking medical marijuana and sick and suffering Canadians is frankly unconscionable."

In April of this year, Ontario Superior Court Justice Donald Taliano ruled that federal prohibitions against possession and cultivation of marijuana are "constitutionally invalid and of no force and effect." The federal government has since filed to appealed the decision.

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