The City of North Vancouver is delivering a major buzz kill to several pot shops operating illegally in the municipality.
This week the city made good on its earlier decision to crack down on marijuana retail stores that have been operating without business licences, filing petitions in B.C. Supreme Court to get the pot shops to close.
The municipality filed court papers seeking injunctions against Weeds Glass and Gifts Ltd. on Marine Drive, the Lotusland Cannabis Society which runs a shop on East Second Street and the Herban Art Collective, which runs from a space near Esplanade – along with corporate owners, directors and landlords of those operations. The city has asked the courts for an injunction order forcing them to stop selling marijuana and marijuana products from the stores in contravention of local bylaws, as well as authority of the RCMP to enforce the injunction.
None of the stores have business licences as the city has refused to grant them on the grounds that retail sale of marijuana is still illegal.
The municipality expects to file papers in court against WeeMedical, another pot shop operating on East First Street, within the next few days, said Connie Rabold, spokeswoman for the city.
A fifth shop, a second Weeds Glass and Gifts store that had been operating across from Lotusland on East Second Street for several years, closed earlier this month after the lease was not renewed.
But other North Vancouver store owners say they don’t plan to shut quietly.
Kevin Anderson, owner of the Herban Art Collective, said his store has been in business for two years and he isn’t planning to close down.
Anderson describes his shop as focussed on specialized strains of marijuana often sought by medicinal users. “We tend to focus on the holistic approach to cannabis,” he said. “We’ve never had any complaints.”
Anderson said he’s planning to apply for a licence from the province when that process opens up. He worries, however, that provincial regulations won’t leave much room to access marijuana produced by smaller craft growers and the municipality is not likely to favour stores that opened up ahead of legalization.
Michael Wuest, owner of Weeds, said, “We certainly have no intention of closing. We’ll take it up with our lawyers.
“We’ve been open for business and selling cannabis for over three years.”
While the province’s liquor control board will grant marijuana shop licences, municipal support for applications will be a strong consideration. Municipalities will also decide where marijuana shops will be allowed.
Two months ago, council signalled that it intended to crack down on illegal shops before coming up with regulations about where and how marijuana stores should be allowed in the city.
At a recent public hearing on the topic, pot shop owners, employees and customers turned out in force to tell council they aren’t happy with the idea of being told to close ahead of federal regulations.
Shane Escher, owner of the Lotusland Cannabis Club, said during that meeting his store has been operating for two years and sells to 650 customers daily.
Don Briere, owner of Weeds, said his stores are paying taxes and providing decent-paying jobs for employees.
Up until now, city bylaw officers have issued fines to the pot shops, but have not pursued any court action against them.
The neighbouring District of North Vancouver has forced two pot shops to close after filing requests for injunctions in the courts.
Rabold said a report on interim pot shop regulations is coming back for consideration by council on Monday.