Plans for P.E.I.'s first medical marijuana dispensary to open in Summerside

Craig Gaudet of Summerside, P.E.I., hopes to open the Island's first medical marijuana dispensary this April.

Gaudet says he already supplies medical marijuana to people who have approval in P.E.I., but wants to make it easier for others to get medical marijuana at one central location.

He told CBC he's already picked out a location — on Water Street in Summerside. He's hoping to open in April.

"I really want to help more people. Our patients are having to travel from end to end on the Island just to be able to get their treatments and get their medications. We can't even buy medications here on the Island, we have to send away and get it through the mail," he said.

A former reservist, Gaudet says he uses medical marijuana himself to manage pain from an injury he sustained in the 1980s, when his legs were crushed by an army vehicle.

Gaudet plans to carry 186 products, and said he will do more than just dispense.

"We spend time with our patients, making sure of their medications, making sure their doses, finding out about their licensing, what they are recommended to take per day, how they're taking it per day and helping people find and obtain a license is a lot of what we do," he said.

Dispensaries illegal according to Health Canada

Health Canada says the dispensaries that have been cropping up across Canada for the past 20 years are illegal.

Gaudet knows what Health Canada's view is, but argues a recent Federal Court ruling that struck down the ban on medical marijuana patients growing their own pot gives him the right to open a dispensary.

"Basically what the new ruling has come out and said, is Health Canada's rules and the law are unconstitutional. Well, the law was struck down, so in a sense, there's no law," he said.

"Health Canada says it's not legal, but the laws have been changed by a higher court power. The only reason it was put off for six months was to give them a chance to get their books and their ducks in a row. That was it."

Health Canada says it up to local law enforcement to deal with the dispensaries.

Police want to be kept in the loop

Summerside police Chief Dave Poirier says Gaudet has talked to him about the project.

"The gentleman was very up front about it, which is a good thing," he said.

"We don't like to hear about this stuff in the media and then react to it later, but he has been keeping us in the loop and he said he'll keep doing it. If he has the proper licensing from Health Canada, we will leave him alone."

Paul Lewin is a Toronto criminal lawyer who sits on the board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in Canada (NORML). He said what Gaudet is planning to do is what's happening across the country.

He said there are probably 250 marijuana dispensaries across Canada, which are technically illegal.

When these first starting opening in Vancouver, police decided on a tactic known as "priority policing," where as long as the dispensaries were only selling to approved patients, and weren't involved with organized crime, or had weapons on site, police left them alone, said Lewin.

He said it appears other police forces across Canada have followed the same unwritten policy.

Lewin also agrees with Gaudet, that the recent Federal Court ruling does have an effect on the legality of dispensaries.