Bridgewater marijuana dispensary ordered to close doors

by Brittany Wentzell

  • <p>BRITTANY WENTZELL PHOTO</p><p>GreenWay Wellness Centre and Dispensary on King Street has been ordered to shut its doors after their application for a development permit was denied on the grounds that the product they are selling is not legal.</p>
  • <p>BRITTANY WENTZELL PHOTO</p><p>A white board in the dispensary advertising specials and deals at the facility.</p>

Marijuana dispensaries may be in a "grey" zone, but the by-laws in Bridgewater are pretty black and white.

GreenWay Wellness Centre and Dispensary opened on King Street on July 18 before obtaining a development permit. The dispensary has since applied for one, but the Town of Bridgewater denied the permit, citing the fact that marijuana is not legalized.

The owner of the dispensary, Richard Todd, says he has already garnered around 300 patients making use of their products.

Todd also owns the GreenWay Wellness Centre and Dispensary in Dartmouth, which opened in February, 2017. That dispensary was the target of a robbery in June when an undisclosed amount of product was stolen.

To shop at the dispensary patients must have prescriptions from their doctors to buy products like marijuana or infused edibles and oils.

Five people whom Tood referred to as volunteers currently operate GreenWay in Bridgewater.

According to Todd, there was a need for a dispensary in Bridgewater. He says many of the customers he has in Dartmouth were driving there from all along the South Shore.

"I've never seen a store grow like this, we're at over 300 patients in just two weeks," he said.

He says he doesn't serve anyone without a prescription and that he respects the law, saying his father was a police officer and that he grew up in a law abiding family.

The legalities

People with medical prescriptions for marijuana are required to fill those prescriptions using a mail order service from one of 44 licensed producers who have official approval from Health Canada. Patients can also apply to grow their own or have their plants grown by a licensed producer.

According to the Canadian Department of Justice, Health Canada does not licence dispensaries, which therefore are illegal.

Some dispensaries however, have continued to operate, calling it a "grey area," given the current political climate and the move by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to make marijuana for recreational use legal by July 1, 2018.

A dispensary is currently operating in Chester as well.

Greenway in Bridgewater opened its doors in late July but at the time of their opening they had not obtained a development permit from the town. Though they later submitted an application for one, the permit was denied.

A letter, issued from the town on July 31, cites the fact that marijuana is not yet legal for recreational use and gave the owners 14 days from the time of receiving the letter to cease and discontinue with marijuana consultation and distribution.

"Any business that is in town needs a permit to operate and we have to do our due diligence and make sure the business is compatible within the land use by-law and then we have to make sure the business is in fact legal," David Mitchell, mayor of the Town of Bridgewater, told LighthouseNOW.

"Nova Scotia and Canadian case law have demonstrated that this type of business is in fact not legal in Nova Scotia or anywhere in Canada, so with that we kind of automatically have to deny the application just because we can't have a business that's not legal operating," he said.

Uproar online

Mitchell says that since the letter was issued there have been some personal comments made regarding him as well as council online, but that this is a planning issue and has nothing to do with the town being welcoming or not to new business.

In a statement sent to LighthouseNOW, Mitchell added that it's not up to council or the mayor to determine whether a business is approved or not; rather it goes through the planning department, and the business was legally not compatible with existing by-laws.

Todd says he publicized the town's letter because he believes the public should be informed about why they have to leave, however, he says he didn't intend to create an uproar or have anyone use foul language.

Todd admits though that occupancy permits from towns or municipalities can be an issue for dispensaries across the board, but says he hasn't had a problem at his Dartmouth facility recently.

As far as what happens next, Todd says he'll be consulting with his lawyer on how to move forward, saying his main priority is the patients.

"We have people in there that are hurt, we have people in there that need us, and that's why we're trying to continue on operating," he said.

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