The Port Alberni Cannabis Club displays signs that the store is “closed until further notice” after a raid on Wednesday. ELENA RARDON PHOTO

Two B.C. cannabis dispensaries raided on legalization day

Port Alberni dispensaries ticketed for “unlawful sale” of cannabis

Although many cities in Canada were able to celebrate the legalization of cannabis this week, Port Alberni was not one of them. Two unlicensed dispensaries in Port Alberni were raided on Wednesday.

Port Alberni RCMP confirmed that they attended Port Alberni Cannabis Club on Bute Street and Leaf Compassion at the bottom of Johnston Road and seized an “undisclosed amount of cannabis and cannabis products.” Owners were also ticketed $575 each for unlawful sale of cannabis. Both stores were open and operating without the new BC provincial license required under the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act.

“It was probably the worst legalization day for us,” said Eric Vesaranta, general manager of Leaf Compassion.

Leaf Compassion was the second licensed medical marijuana dispensary to open in Port Alberni back in 2016. Vesaranta expressed frustration with the raid. He had tried to keep the store open on Wednesday, with the understanding that municipalities would be giving businesses “a grace period” while provincial licenses went through the screening process. Leaf Compassion applied for a provincial license last month, at a cost of $7,500.

“We’ve been doing everything by the law,” said Vesaranta.

Leaf Compassion was the second store raided on Wednesday, after the Port Alberni Cannabis Club—another municipally licensed shop that has applied for its provincial license—was raided in the morning. General manager Christine Jarvis said there was no warning on the license applications or the government’s website that they would be shut down.

“Nowhere did [anybody] say we had to shut our doors,” she said.

Vesaranta and Jarvis both said RCMP seized anything that was “in plain view”—products in display cases, paraphernalia that still had residue in it, medicinal products that contained THC. For Jarvis, her concern is for the clients, who are primarily medical users.

“We’ve met a lot of wonderful clients of ours,” she said. “They come in to medicate here, and now they can’t. This is about our clients and customers and giving them pain relief.”

Vesaranta also expressed concern about people turning to the black market without any licensed shops to turn to.

“People have been going to dispensaries here for years,” he added.

Although only two dispensaries were raided on Wednesday, other shops in Port Alberni—including WeeMedical on Third Avenue and OG West on Redford Street—have announced that they are closed “until further notice.” Both Leaf Compassion and the Cannabis Club will be staying open, although they will not be able to sell any cannabis products.

“We’re staying open to push out information to people,” said Vesaranta. “Now it’s just a matter of waiting.”

“We’re going to do our damnedest to stay open,” agreed Jarvis.

Both Vesaranta and Jarvis believe Port Alberni was the only city that had stores raided on Wednesday.

New provincial legislation and regulations require cannabis to be sold exclusively at government-run stores, licensed private retailers and the B.C. government’s online store. The province’s only “legal” pot shop is a BC Cannabis Store located in Kamloops. Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth has said that there are 173 dispensary applications pending approval in the province. 62 of these have been approved by the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, and are now under review by local governments.

“While the legal recreational use of cannabis may be new, the enforcement of laws around the illegal production, distribution and consumption of cannabis is not,” stated Port Alberni RCMP in a press release.

elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘It lifts the spirits’, LRCA Senior’s Coordinator encourages community to check in with seniors

The LRCA has been calling seniors to check in on what services they may need

Mid-Island Panago locations offer free pizza to first responders

First responder can get free pizza at Panago in Parksville, Nanaimo, Ladysmith, Duncan, and Mill Bay

Ladysmith Spring Cleanup Week postponed

The decision was made to protect collection workers from possible COVID-19 exposure

Nanaimo, Royal Jubilee to be Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 frontline hospitals

Other Island hospitals will be admitting COVID-19 patients and will be used in a support role

Vandekamp moving on from Cowichan Capitals

Head coach returns to AJHL’s Grande Prairie Storm

UPDATE: Canadians awake to extra COVID-19 emergency benefit money, feds clarify changes

The CRA and federal officials are working to clarify the confusion around payments

Ongoing list of Ladysmith COVID-19 cancellations and closures

Everything in Ladysmith that has been impacted by COVID-19

B.C. sorting medical equipment sales, donation offers for COVID-19

Supply hub has call out for masks, gowns, coronavirus swabs

B.C. records five more deaths due to COVID-19, 45 new cases

A total of 838 people have recovered from the virus

Major crimes investigating sudden death of North Okanagan child

The 8 year old was flown to Kelowna General Hospital and died hours later

Easter Bunny added to B.C.’s list of essential workers

Premier John Horgan authorizes bunny to spread “eggs-ellent cheer” throughout province

Travellers returning to B.C. must have self-isolation plan or face quarantine: Horgan

Premier John Horgan says forms must be filled out by travellers

More than 400 animals have been adopted amid pandemic: B.C. SPCA

People are taking this time of social distancing to find a loyal companion through the animal welfare group

VIDEO: More than 85 people displaced by Campbell River apartment fire

Traffic is being diverted around Dogwood Street and 9th Avenue

Most Read