As if to blow smoke right back at police, three Nanaimo marijuana dispensaries that were raided by RCMP have reopened – with a message.

“We will have product on site by the end of the day,” said Matthew O’Donnell, a worker at Phoenix Pain Management.

On Tuesday morning, the grey area that has allowed marijuana dispensaries to operate in dozens of cities became black-and-white in Nanaimo.

Mounties acting on a cease-and-desist order issued last month escorted 16 employees away from three different pot shops and seized thousands of dollars in marijuana and cash.

“They showed me the warrant for my arrest, and I was charged subsequently with possession for the purpose of trafficking cannabis,” said Rich Scott, manager of Nature’s Source Society.

Nanaimo’s Cannabis Coalition came together Wednesday to show its strength in numbers despite the crackdown.

“They arrested three front-line workers from us yesterday. Today I can tell you our executive and senior management will be working those counters, and if they’re gonna arrest anyone, it should be us,” said Travis Lane, the general manager of Trees Dispensary.

As the marijuana community grows louder, police have so far remained quiet about the raids.

Officials once again declined any on-camera interviews Wednesday, standing behind a written statement that police have evidence stores are selling to minors.

“When I have reports of storefronts selling marihuana to youth and concerned community members approaching me about it, we are compelled to take enforcement action,” wrote Supt. Mark Fisher. “Our approach has always been to address public concerns, consult our contracting partners, stakeholders and allow for our investigations to determine the way forward. That was done in this case.”

But the RCMP’s accusations are being fiercely denied.

“I’d say I’d like to see that proof and that those allegations are completely false,” said Lane.

Caught in the middle of the legal stare-down are customers like cancer patient Stephen Donnelly, who says he has turned to cannabis oil to manage his pain.

“To have these outlets shut down is like throwing me in the water without a lifejacket,” he said. “Now I have to find another source, and I’ll probably have to drive all the way to Victoria to get the product I need now.”

Donnelly argued the same products are not available through Health Canada.

The coalition has hired a lawyer to fight all charges against the dispensaries.

“I have perfect confidence that after a long and expensive-to-the-taxpayer fight, we are going to see justice prevail on behalf of the dispensaries that were raided,” said lawyer Kirk Tousaw.

Many have criticized the dispensary crackdown as a waste of police resources, despite the fact marijuana storefronts are currently considered illegal by the federal government.

However, B.C. municipalities recently voted in favour of a resolution to declare they have the authority to licence dispensaries.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged to legalize marijuana, but it remains to be seen when that will be implemented country-wide.