Dear Victoria,

Did you get your free weed yet?

An article in the Times Colonist this week focused on a marijuana dispensary who promised just that… well, in the same way you get a free bag of bits n’ bites with every purchase of an airline ticket.

And how do they operate? If they are on the wrong side of the law why aren’t they being closed down like a 2007 Blockbuster Video?

The answer is different depending on who you ask. And I asked. In fact I went to three separate marijuana dispensaries in Victoria (I was just looking Mom I promise) to find out how they operate.

Firstly, you know who likes to talk about weed? People who sell weed. Seriously, if you are ever going to do this pack a lunch.

But secondly, it’s not one size fits all. Some dispensaries tip toe while others are wearing clodhoppers. And all seem to have different approaches as to how they navigate this legal-ish business.

Now this isn’t a piece advocating the legalization of marijuana. Nor is it condemning that.  I simply wanted to find out more about an industry that continues to operate in a legal grey area.

I talked to three dispensaries: Beard Brothers Society, Natures Botanicals and Trees Dispensaries and they all have very different business practices.


 


 


 

If you didn’t listen to those, I’m not mad I’m just disappointed.

’ll break it down for you anyway.

Beard Brothers operate under federal non-profit status. They provide marijuana as a medicinal alternative to pharmaceuticals. You need a doctor’s diagnosis or a membership from another reputable club to buy from them. However, they have an onsite doctor who looks at potential club members weekly.

Ryan from Natures Botanicals doesn’t. You have to get an independent diagnosis to join his club. He’s also very vocal about dispensaries in town selling for non-medical related purposes, and thinks that they are hurting the legitimacy of the ones who are selling under the compassionate care banner. He operates under a business license for selling “natural and herbal products”.

Trees is a far cry from that. They say straight up that they sell cannabis for profit and have submitted a business license application for that purpose. They see a problem with the line between medicinal and recreational use and don’t want to be the ones to draw it. However, they do believe in providing safe access to something people are going to just get anyway.

Three businesses, selling the same product, three very different ways. But they do agree on some things.

Firstly, that there needs to be regulation. All would like clarity from the municipality.

Secondly, they appreciated the delicateness that the Victoria dispensaries have adopted rather than their Vancouver counterparts. While Beard Brothers, Natures Botanicals and Trees could be very well selling grooming products, ginseng tablets and gardening supplies, dispensaries in Vancouver operate with the subtlety of Nicolas Cage’s career arc.

And third, they have a vastly different opinion than the operator in the TC article. Whereas he says “there are no clear rules” dictated by the police, they tend to disagree. All say the VicPD have done an amazing job communicating what is and is not acceptable. Travis and Alex from Trees even go as far to say as they have had secret shoppers come in and make sure they are operating above board. All agreed that a pamphlet saying “free premium cannabis” was over the well-established line.

Finally, they all believe in what they are doing. Trust me. If you thought those interview clips were long, you should hear the parts where I asked if they think cannabis is a substitute for pharmaceutical drugs. It was like I told them whoever could talk the longest won a prize package comprised of Adventure Time DVD’s and Bagel Bites.

If you pressed me for an opinion, I’d say regulation does need to come and fast. These shops are popping up like… well… weeds and there needs to be rules in place how or if they can operate. Without, the grey area just becomes greyer giving us all migraines trying to navigate it. Hey… I think I know a few places that say they can help with that.

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