COMMENT: Marijuana shop may be illegal, but risk to community is low

Magna Terra on Iber Road

(PHOTO: If it wasn’t for all the media coverage you might never know this was a marijuana dispensary.)

I stopped in at Magna Terra’s open house over lunch today. Owner Franco Vigile was there along with one of his staff (a registered nurse) serving finger sandwiches and bottled water to visitors.

Magna Terra is the new medical marijuana dispensary on Iber Road that’s scheduled to open later this month. The facility, and others like it, are operating illegally — at least until the Liberal government finalizes new legislation for the sale and use of marijuana.

Last week Councillor Shad Qadri expressed concern over Magna Terra’s proximity to local schools and lack of public consultation, but I believe Vigile’s business model poses a very low risk to community safety.

The dispensary looks like a medical clinic. What I saw inside today was a clean, bright environment that reminded me of a high-end health food store. Vigile says there’s a three-stage security procedure in place to restrict access only to people with a prescription and valid identification.

He says the marijuana itself is produced by federally-licensed growers, with most of it imported from British Columbia. He says that his sole focus is on medical marijuana, not recreational use.

In Canada, you can only fill a prescription for marijuana by mail order. As Vigile pointed out in a recent interview on the Stittsvegas podcast, that’s not an ideal situation.

Franco Vigile
Franco Vigile

“Many users are first-time users, and it’s important to people that they get the proper consult,” said Vigile. The clinic plans to have a doctor on staff and is developing an education program. “We remain committed to keeping this as regulated and professional and as strict as possible. It’s prescription only.”

The open house was fairly quiet when I dropped by. An older man biked over from Kanata, and said he had a doctor’s prescription. I met a young man taking photos and videos who suffers from fibromyalgia, a chronic pain disorder. He said having access to medical marijuana in his community rather than just by mail order might help to reduce some of the stigma that he and other patients feel.

For the most part, residents I’ve heard from are supportive of the venture.  Vigile says he knows there’s a market here in the west end based on the clientele he serves at his Carling Avenue location.

I’ve heard concern from a few neighbours worried about the clinic’s proximity to a nearby daycare and dance studio, but if it operates as Vigile says it will, Magna Terra’s clientele will be a lot like that of a pharmacy.

Marijuana is not without its risks, but that’s no different from any drug you get from the pharmacy.  Once the new laws are introduced we’ll need to figure out how facilities like this one fit into the health system, and how police and municipalities should (or shouldn’t) regulate them.

I have a hard time putting my support behind Magna Terra as a business because it is technically illegal.  For now, it’s filling a gap for the hundreds of people in our community who use marijuana for medical reasons, and want a face-to-face alternative to ordering through the mail.

The open house continues on Wednesday from noon to 7pm (details here), and I encourage residents to drop by.

Inside Magna Terra on Iber Road. (supplied photo)
Inside Magna Terra on Iber Road. (supplied photo)


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