The City of Vancouver is taking serious steps to legitimize cannabis sales by warning all unlicensed cannabis dispensaries that they will be subject to both civil and criminal charges if they continue to operate. Last week, city officials issued three more cannabis business licenses, but made it clear that store who attempt to operate outside of the legal framework will feel the repercussions.
At the end of 2018, Vancouver issued 53 injunctions opposing these storefronts and British Columbia’s Supreme Court ordered all unlicensed cannabis dispensaries to close their doors. Those unlicensed retailers who refuse to shutdown have been threatened with costly litigation, hefty fines and even jail time.
Vancouver’s chief licensing inspector, Kathryn Holm, recently stated that, "Our goal is always voluntary compliance with any bylaw enforcement. That obviously hasn't been the case here, so we escalate with the tools we have. That includes fines, legal orders to close injunctions, referrals to a prosecutor's office and access to the provincial court system to get a ruling."
Holm has been in contact with some of the known unlicensed cannabis dispensaries noting that, "Our conversation has been with the operators to ensure that they fully understand and agree to be compliant and are establishing timelines to close." However there are several retailers who have made it known that they do not intend on closing.
Those unlicensed cannabis dispensaries in Vancouver that are ceasing to operate want a level playing field and accountability from those who intentionally violate the injunctions. Owner of Evergreen Cannabis Society, Mike Babbins, expressed his frustration with this double standard saying, "You know it's like being a brother and sister, and the brother's following all the rules and sister gets away with everything and what could you do? Mommy's not looking."
The only way to hold these businesses accountable is through enforcement. While there is no official time frame for when Vancouver law enforcement will be cracking down on unlicensed cannabis dispensaries, Holm did remark that, "We certainly are not taking our foot off the gas. With respect to enforcement, we've continued to escalate and take the steps that we can."