Sep. 23, 2003
St. John, N.B.
The owners of a Saint John cafe where patrons are encouraged to smoke pot and sip coffee are now offering over-the-counter sales of medicinal marijuana.
Jim and Lynn Wood, founders of the Cannabis Cafe, announced Tuesday they have decided to sell high-grade marijuana from their store to people who need pot to ease their pain. "This will be Canada's first over-the-counter cannabis cafe," said Jim Wood. "Bascially, we're just trying to help people."
The cafe has been open since April, but it has not been in the business of selling marijuana.
The quaint shop offers a wide range of hemp products and drug paraphernalia, such as pipes. Anyone who buys a beverage can sit and smoke the marijuana they brought with them.
Police arrested five people at the cafe in May but charges are still pending.
Meanwhile, pot smokers continue to frequent the store.
The Woods said they have decided to branch out into medical marijuana sales because they believe there is a real need.
People who want to get marijuana must first fill out application forms and, if possible, provide a doctor's letter that states why they need the pot.
Wood said that if people don't have a doctor or don't have one willing to recommend marijuana, they can simply apply on their own.
"I just hope they're cheaper than what it costs on the street," said Robert Brideau, a 61-year-old Saint John resident with arthritis and prostate problems.
"The dealers are charging $225 or $250 an ounce. That's a lot of money. I can't afford it where I'm on a pension."
Brideau was the first customer to fill out an application on Tuesday. He hopes to know within a couple of days whether he will qualify for the marijuana, which the Woods promise will be top quality.
"I'm in a lot of pain," he said. "It's the only thing that helps."
The Woods said they will discuss prices with the patients.
"We can't give it away," Jim said. "There are costs involved."
Sgt. Kim Phillips, the head of Saint John's street crime unit, said it is against the law for the Woods to sell marijuana at their store.
He said the police will keep an eye on the cafe, which won't be difficult since it's directly across the street from a community policing office.
"We are going to investigate and we will charge accordingly," Phillips said.
The Saint John police were criticized for not moving more quickly against the Cannabis Cafe.
The Woods, who acknowledge they are testing the limits of Canada's pot decriminalization intentions, said they hope the police will leave them alone.
"We'll see what happens," Jim said. "We can only hope they'll finally look at this in a positive light."
The federal government is still reviewing a special parliamentary committee's proposal for decriminalizing the possession of pot for personal use.
Judges in several provinces have halted proceedings in cases involving marijuana possession in the past year, saying there is no valid federal law governing the offence.
Wood said he applied to the federal government for a permit to sell medicinal marijuana, but didn't hear back.
He said the marijuana he sells in his store will be of much higher quality
than the product produced by federal growers, which has been widely criticized
as weak and ineffective.
Copyright © 2003, Canadian Press