North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP have raided dispensaries in Chemainus and made multiple arrests, including the owner of Leaf Compassion.
Officers entered the Leaf Compassion store on Chemainus Road with a warrant at around 12 p.m. on Friday and were still on scene in the early hours of the evening.
“They went ahead and arrested all of our staff that were on site and began their search and seizure,” said Leaf Compassion’s regional manager Justin Gurinskas outside the store.
Green Aura in Chemainus was also raided by RCMP on Friday as well as Green Tea Medical Dispensary, located in Duncan but part of the North Cowichan municipality, on Thursday.
“They’ll take everything that they feel is relevant to the investigation,” said Gurinskas, who was expecting to see details of the warrant once the search was concluded.
“We’re definitely not the first dispensary to be raided so we know what to expect.”
Kyle Cheyne, the owner of Leaf Compassion, which has locations in Victoria and Port Alberni, was also arrested by police shortly after arriving in Chemainus.
Both Green Aura and Leaf Compassion have been fined $200 twice by the Municipality of the North Cowichan in recent months for not holding a business licence.
North Cowichan Mayor John Lefebure said it can take significant staff time and resources to be able to issue a ticket.
“To serve a ticket we have to find the owner of the business,” said North Cowichan Mayor John Lefebure, noting that the RCMP’s actions are separate from those of the municipality.
“Serving a ticket is not necessarily easy and takes time and energy…so that is a restriction on the ability of our bylaw officers.”
The store front operations at dispensaries are also not licenced by Health Canada.
According to the RCMP, investigators gathered evidence of possible offences under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and took enforcement actions accordingly.
The RCMP is guided by the current legislation and the laws as they exist in Canada. While there may be pending changes in the legislation, until such time as this legislation has been passed and new laws enacted, the RCMP will enforce the laws of Canada as they exist today says Insp. Ray Carfantan, officer in charge of North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP.
The North Cowichan/Duncan Detachment engages in ongoing consultation with the community to ensure that the priorities of the community are reflected in the policing priorities for the Detachment. Our community priorities are in alignment with the priorities for both Canada and the Province of British Columbia
When reached by the Chronicle, the RCMP could not confirm how many people had been arrested as part of the search and seizures on Thursday and Friday, or if any charges are pending.
The investigation remains ongoing and “marijuana, marijuana derivatives and evidence of sales were seized,” the RCMP said.
The raids come within hours of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Vancouver Island earlier this week and reinforcing that marijuana dispensaries are illegal.
Gurinskas said the raids are costly to taxpayers and regulations should be drafted by municipalities pending more guidance from the federal government.
“These gentlemen may be nice enough to take all the cannabis off site and hand us back the keys and we’ll do it all again tomorrow,” he said.
“There will be more products on the shelves and these people will have access to their medicine until these guys come back and do it again.”