Sooke is getting its first marijuana dispensary.
Medijuana Dispensary will open at the corner of Sooke and Murray roads next week. It is located next to a restaurant, dentist office and some residential housing.
Owner James Whitehead, a former Shirley resident now living in Victoria, where he operates a similar business, said the dispensary has a clinical air and provides cannabis only to customers who have been certified for medical marijuana by Health Canada – or who have a “proven medical condition.”
“I really stop short of saying cannabis is a cure for anything,” he said.
“What it is, it’s an effective healthcare supplement adult Canadians have a constitutional right to use it, to improve their health if they feel that it’s something that works for them.”
Whitehead has a business degree and ran a national technology company that did signage for arts and entertainment promotion.
He sustained a serious injury to his back and through a long recovery process discovered cannabis. He was never a pot user before that, he said.
Medijuana Dispensary will carry 50 different strains of marijuana and will also sell safe smoking accessories, forced air vaporizers and possibly bongs and pipes.
The store will be open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week. Medijuana staff will only sell to customers over the age of 21. Most dispensaries sell to teens.
“The need of use [of cannabis] needs to fall within a lexicon in a category of approved conditions so that will allow us feeling in good conscience that we’re providing them with a service that’s going to have a benefit and not be used recreationally,” Whitehead said.
“Our objective is to help people, not get people high.”
The District of Sooke business license bylaw does not prohibit medicinal marijuana retail outlets.
Health Canada says medical dispensaries have been cropping up across Canada for the past 20 years and storefront dispensaries are still not considered legal, despite a Supreme Court ruling.
The court decision struck down the ban on medical marijuana patients growing their own pot calling it unconstitutional.
Health Canada says medical marijuana is only legal if you have a document from your doctor and buy the product from one of 30 licensed producers that are listed on its website. The marijuana is shipped to the user.
It’s a tough call for police, says Sooke RCMP Staff Sgt. Jeff McArthur.
“He’s [Whitehead] basically operating in a grey area based on a Supreme Court ruling that the government had to make marijuana available to people who have a therapeutic need for it.”
McArthur’s concern is what element is the business going to attract to Sooke and if it will be a positive or negative thing for the community.
“My preference would be that there wasn’t any marijuana dispensary in town, and we reserve the right to invoke the law if it turns out that it’s not being run in a way that’s constructive,” McArthur said.
‘We’ll be watching it carefully, for sure.”