Victoria police raid Quadra Street marijuana shop

Customers who buy marijuana at the Vancouver Island Health Advocacy Centre on Quadra Street are worried they’ll have to buy “street junk” laced with chemicals from downtown dealers in the wake of a police raid Thursday afternoon.

Victoria Police Const. Mike Russell said officers conducted a lengthy investigation of the centre after receiving a number of complaints from the community. Officers conducted surveillance and worked undercover to gather evidence for a search warrant, he said.

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The raid was prompted by police concern over allegations that marijuana is being illegally sold, Russell said.

They are also concerned about the number of young people going in and out of the centre and improper collection of personal health information, he said.

The centre is located near the corner of Kings Road and Quadra Street, beside Bong City, a drug paraphernalia store.

During the raid on Thursday, one of the owners arrived at the store. He declined to be interviewed.

About half a dozen people stood outside smoking cigarettes, discussing the situation and warning other customers not to go into the store while police were still there.

One regular, who lives in the neighbourhood, said he was not aware of any incidents or complaints.

“People go in, do their business and leave,” the man said.

“It’s unlikely they were selling to younger kids. You have to show your membership card and photo ID to prove you’re 19 to pick up medical marijuana.”

The centre sells to people who can’t get a doctor’s note for medical marijuana and who don’t want to go to a dealer and buy pot laced with dangerous chemicals, said the customer, who did not want his name published.

“I thought they were legal,” he said. “As far as I understand, they were doing everything by the book.”

Another young man said his girlfriend was a loyal customer.

“I don’t know what she’s going to do now,” said the man, who also did not want to be identified.

The centre was performing a public service by stopping people from buying street junk, he said.

“The weed is professionally grown. The staff is friendly and they help people get their medical marijuana access card,” the man said.

Inside the centre is a menu board that describes the different types of marijuana available, he said.

Russell said it’s illegal to sell marijuana out of a storefront.

“Nobody’s allowed to [do it],” he said.

“There’s no provision in the Criminal Code for you to sell marijuana out of a storefront.”

In June, there were at least five medical marijuana dispensaries operating under their own rules in Victoria.

The dispensaries are not really legal, but have been backed by court rulings that say Ottawa makes access to medical marijuana too difficult otherwise, Cobble Hill lawyer Kirk Tousaw told the Times Colonist in an earlier interview.

“Courts and to a certain extent law enforcement have been tolerant of properly run dispensaries because they are serving a need,” Tousaw said.

Some people were detained Thursday but no charges have been laid, Russell said.

“Once we have an idea what sort of drug we’re looking at and the quantity of drugs, we’ll work through that with Crown counsel,” he said.

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