- BC Games
Marijuana dispensary looks to plant seeds of understanding
Like any small businessman Justin Cleveland is passionate about the product he sells.
But when that product is illegal unless it's being obtained by permission of the federal government and with a doctor's prescription, Cleveland knows he has to tread carefully to ease the concerns of neighbouring businesses and residents.
Cleveland is the president of the West Coast Green Light Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating safe, legal access to marijuana for medical needs. Since April he's been in the process of opening the N.I.C.E. Dispensary at 907 12th St. to distribute cannabis to customers who need it to ease the symptoms of a variety of ailments, like nausea from cancer treatment, Multiple Sclerosis, arthritis, epilepsy and glaucoma.
And while the front door is open to the spartan dispensary that consists of a row of chairs, two dispensing offices and a countertop, not a single leaf, bottle of tincture or cannabis capsule has yet to be sold.
That's because Cleveland wants to first ensure the community is comfortable with his presence.
He's keeping the dispensary doors open during business hours, even though he's not actually selling product yet, so neighbours along the street and in the adjoining neighbourhoods of the West End and Moody Park can pop in to ask questions and learn about how he plans to conduct his business.
"We don't want to blindside anybody," said Cleveland, 23.
He's scheduled presentations to the West End and Moody Park residents associations, as well as the West End Business Association for later this month and early October. He's also planning to talk to the New Westminster Police Department.
The arrival of a marijuana dispensary is particularly sensitive on 12th Street, a retail stretch that's grappled with prostitution, petty crime and road construction over the years.
"This is the perfect place to help the miserable be more miserable," said Sandy Longridge, who's operated Assist 2 Sell real estate on 12th since 2008.
Cleveland assures those who pop into the dispensary he's not a drug dealer. Before clients can even have a hope of obtaining his products, they'll first have to fill out sheafs of Health Canada paperwork, and get a prescription from their doctor. They'll then get their photo taken and be issued a membership card to the dispensary. They'll also have to sign a pledge to abide by a code of conduct posted on the dispensary's wall.
Trained counsellors will be on hand to help clients find the cannabis treatment that best suits their needs; medical marijuana can also be administered as an oral spray, a tincture, as an additive to food, in capsules or even as a topical cream.
"We don't look to make their problems worse," said Cleveland. "The dispensary is about harm reduction so clients don't have to go to the black market in the street."
Cleveland said all of his cannabis will be tested by an independent laboratory in Victoria to ensure it's not tainted by other chemicals, pesticides, fungus or moulds. It will be stored in an 1,100-pound safe.
For now, that safe is still empty as Cleveland continues in his quest to win neighbours over.
"You need to do it rationally," he said. "You have to respect that not everybody understands what we're doing. It's not a pot shop."