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Unlicensed Vancouver medical pot shop raided by province
Dana Larsen, founding director of the Vancouver Dispensary Society outside the Medical Cannabis Dispensary after it was raided.
VANCOUVER – The owner of an unlicensed cannabis dispensary is speaking out after his store was raided by officials from the province.
Dana Larsen said members from the province's community safety unit came to his store at around 10 a.m. Wednesday and cleaned out shelves at the Medical Cannabis Dispensary near Thurlow and Davie streets.
"We've been here almost 10 years with no problems. We are compliant with all the city bylaws and regulations," Larsen told CTV News Vancouver.
Larsen said his understanding was that if his business was complying with Vancouver's bylaws and had a municipal permit, it would be left alone to transition into the legal system.
"This seems bizarre to me that one level of government is supporting, licensing and permitting you and then another level is coming after you and raiding you," he said.
Larsen said an emergency stock of cannabis was brought in and the store reopened about three hours after the raid.
On Twitter, Larsen said there was a big line extending around the block, waiting for the store to re-open.
"A lot of folks came by and were very unhappy they couldn't access their cannabis," he said. "We had a lot of medical patients out front explaining that they were relying on us, they couldn't afford the cannabis from the legal system, the quality is not there and the product and selection are not there yet.
"We would be happy to shut down if the legal system was such that it was meeting everybody's demands. But that is not the case."
Even though marijuana has been legal in Canada for over a year now, some businesses say the province's regulations for retailers are "tough."
"Here in British Columbia with central distribution, there's some challenges around affordability. There's some challenges round the quality and variety that we see. We're always in conversation with British Columbia to move that needle forward," said Andrew Gordon, senior vice-president with Kiaro.
Earlier this month, B.C. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said 144 retail licenses have been approved in the province, but not all are open yet.
"This is an evolutionary process," he said. "You're seeing enforcement against illegal stores is being stepped up."
Farnworth said the community safety unit has seen some success as they've cracked down on illegal activity. He said many shops have voluntarily shut down while others had their product confiscated.
Larsen said his store is in the process of applying for a government licence.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Angela Jung and Bhinder Sajan