Vancouver's Weeds closing after court rules against pot shops
In the latest blow to pot shops operating without permits, nine marijuana dispensaries operating without licences across the City of Vancouver are being asked to close their doors immediately, or face further enforcement action.
On Friday, a B.C. Court of Appeals judge turned down an application by the dispensaries for a stay on a Supreme Court decision in December 2018 that had ordered them to shut down.
Chief Licence Officer Kathryn Holm said she was “pleased things are moving in the right direction.”
In a news release, the city said the decision means "the illegal marijuana dispensaries…must close pending the outcome of their appeal."
If they do not close "immediately" the city says it will look to have them found in contempt of court.
The nine stores are:
- Canna Clinic, 2347 E. Hastings St.
- Green Cross Society Of B.C., 2145 Kingsway
- Karuna Health Foundation & Metta Lounge, 3636 W. 4th Ave.
- Lotusland Cannabis Club, 3474 W. Broadway
- The Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary, 880 E. Hastings St.
- WEEDS, 1808 Burrard St.
- WEEDS, 2580 Kingsway
- WEEDS, 6657 Main St.
- WEEDS, 1108 Richards St.
Don Briere, who owns the Weeds franchise with four locations in Vancouver, told CTV News he would have no choice but to close and might have to layoff as many as 100 staff by the end of the weekend.
“I don’t want to see any of our people go to jail,” he said. “I’d be willing to do it, but I’m only one person”
The city initially filed injunctions against 53 operators back in 2016 and 2017.
Only nine of those remain open.
Dana Larsen, who is on the board of The Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary, told CTV it has no plans to shut down.
“We can’t turn away the people that rely on us,” Larsen said.
In its release, the city also says it's identified 11 other shops that are not part of the case, and it plans to take legal action. The locations are:
- Canna Farmacy, 1259 Kingsway
- Stepping Stone Holistic Living, 2487 Kingsway
- B.C. Pain Society, 2908 Commercial Dr.
- Lotusland Cannabis Club, 3187 Main St.
- Herbs R Us, 223 W. Broadway
- Greencity Cannabis Boutique, 1232 Burrard St.
- Canna Farmacy, 1713 Davie St.
- Better Living Society, 1812 W. 4th Ave.
- Cannabis Culture, 3175 W. Broadway
- Canna Farmacy, 8546 Granville St.
While Vancouver has issued thousands of bylaw tickets both before and after legalization, to date there have been no large-scale raids of marijuana dispensaries operating without permits.
The city says it's issued some 4,000 tickets at up to $1,000 a ticket, but recently stopped issuing them, preferring court action.
“Could we see raids if they don’t shut down?” Holm was asked by CTV.
“I think that’s best answered by the province,” she said.
Holm noted that the province’s Community Safety Unit, responsible for enforcement, is "now active in Vancouver."
Briere said his stores were visited by a group of four wearing polo shirts and carrying badges who passed out documents and issued warnings, but didn’t give a firm timeline.
To date, six retail licences have been issued in the City of Vancouver.
Statistics from the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch show a total of nine retail licences issued across Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, with 20 others throughout the rest of the province.
Briere says he still plans to pursue licences for all four of his locations but is unsure how long the process might take.
“We’re here to help people,” he said. “And what (the city) is doing is hurting people.”