East Van pot shop frustrated over legalization process, illegal stores
Spencer Harwood, CTV Vancouver
Published Wednesday, January 2, 2019 6:01PM PST
Last Updated Thursday, January 3, 2019 1:39PM PST
At least one Vancouver cannabis retailer does not want to chill out over the two-tiered system they believe has been created by delays in provincial and municipal licensing and a lack of enforcement for illegal cannabis stores.
Months after unloading products, laying off nearly 40 staff members across four stores, and closing their doors in hopes of obtaining the three required business permits to legally sell cannabis, Eggs Canna Vice-President Craig Lust is baffled by the lack of enforcement towards illegal marijuana retailers by the City of Vancouver, the provincial government, and local law enforcement.
“The only thing that’s consistent right now is the inconsistencies we get in messaging,” says Lust.
He says that while Eggs Canna has gone through the appropriate steps to legally sell marijuana, other shops are still open for business, legal or otherwise, and seemingly at no cost to the outlaws.
“I think the biggest mixed messaging is coming from the city and between the police enforcement” he says, “are these illegal locations going to be shut down, are they going to stay operating?"
The city requires all cannabis stores to have a municipal development permit and business licence, as well as a provincial cannabis retail licence before they can legally operate.
City of Vancouver spokesperson Jag Sandhu says there are currently 56 locations with a development permit, adding those stores have been told what steps they will need to take to get in line with both Vancouver and the province.
“The City has filed or is ready to file injunctions,” says Sandhu.
He confirmed existing shops currently operating outside of the city’s land approval permits aren’t doing so with impunity, and have filed injunctions and issued over 3,700 tickets, amounting to almost $3 million in fines.
However, the longer the delays, the more costly the process to sell legal marijuana has become for Eggs Canna.
Lust estimates that between the application process, a three to six month nonrefundable deposit required by most landlords, and the $30,000 per year business licence - on top of staffing, training, and operational costs - the bill runs almost six figures.
"You are probably into it for $70,000 to $80,000 per location just to apply."
He says the company is doing fine for the time being, but added within half a year the company would be feeling intense pressure, adding to the feeling of injustice against a retailer who says they want to introduce cannabis to the public “in the safest, most legal” route possible.
"It's frustrating for people who have shut down, who have paid the $30,000 business licence already, and then we can look across the street (at retailers) that haven't, that are operating."
The Vancouver Police Department referred all enforcement questions back to the City, and a spokesperson from the provincial government was unable to comment at the time of filing.
Vancouver's first legal cannabis retailer, Evergreen Cannabis Society, is set to open their doors on January 5th.
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Allison Hurst