Marijuana dispensaries beef up security

Tony Musfelt started shaking when he received a phone call from police last week.

  • Nov. 4, 2015 7:00 a.m.

— Pamela Roth

Tony Musfelt started shaking when he received a phone call from police last week, informing him that the medical marijuana dispensary he manages on Cook Street had been robbed.

“It took me half an hour to calm down before I could even go in,” said Musfelt. “My anxiety was through the roof.”

It was around 8:35 p.m. on Oct. 27 when police were called to the Ocean Grown Medical Dispensary in the 1700 block of Cook Street after two masked men brandishing firearms stormed the business. Nobody was injured, but the two employees working in the store were tied up by the thieves, who fled the scene once police arrived.

The business can’t talk about specific details about the crime, but said employees working that night were shaken by what they experienced. Measures are now being taken to increase security.

In the last three months, there have been three armed robberies at medical marijuana stores in Victoria. Police are investigating whether there is any connection. If the trend continues, police may look at cracking down on the illegal businesses operating throughout the city.

“The police will look at trends in the future and if the trends continue, then maybe we will go down the road with enforcement,” said Victoria police Const. Matt Rutherford. “The problem is it’s such a hot political issue.”

Medical marijuana dispensaries have been popping up throughout B.C., prompting communities to call for local authorities to regulate them.

Last month, Esquimalt council voted to deny all applications for business licenses pertaining to dispensaries in the township following an earlier inquiry from someone wanting to establish a business there.

Officials with the town canvased other municipalities in the region, noting most have taken the position that the activity is illegal, therefore business licences will not be issued and anyone commencing operations will be forced to shut down.

The only exception in the region is the City of Victoria, which currently has approximately 20 medical marijuana dispensaries. The city is now trying to set up a process to regulate the industry so it won’t be a free-for-all.

When it comes to policing, officers in Victoria have had ongoing conversations with dispensary operators, reminding them that there is always a risk the businesses could be enforced.

“If we went in and tried to shut these places down, is this going to result in criminal charges? That’s not clear. That can change any minute…It really is a complex issue where people are operating in a grey area,” said Victoria police spokesperson Bowen Osoko. “Our resources are only so big and we apply those resources based on the public interest.”

According to Dieter MacPherson, executive director of the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club, one of the major risks for medical marijuana dispensaries is that they are an all-cash business.

The city licencing dispensaries will go a long way towards allowing the businesses to access traditional services, such as banking, he added, and if the federal government follows through with legalizing marijuana it will reduce the market value over time, removing the temptation for thieves.

“This is not unique to the City of Victoria. Obviously we’re dealing with a high value product and an all-cash business so there will always be a concern that they are targeted,” said MacPherson. “Our hope is businesses will adopt best practices for security and the city in its licencing program will include security standards that should be applied across the industry.”

Last month, a man armed with a weapon entered the Weeds Social Club in the 1600 block of Douglas Street and made off with an undisclosed amount of cash and drugs. In late July, a man armed with a gun and knife stole cash and drugs from Farmacy, located at 3055 Scott St.

Anyone with information is asked to call 250-995-7654.

 

 

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

Just Posted

Drive up voting is popular with Victoria-Swan Lake voters at the Craigflower elementary polling station. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
Drive up voting popular at Craigflower polling station in Victoria-Swan Lake

Nearly 13,000 mail-in ballots were requested in the Victoria-Swan Lake riding

Polls close at 8 p.m. in the Esquimalt-Metchosin riding. (Katherine Engqvist/News Staff)
VIDEO: Esquimalt-Metchosin candidates reflect on campaign as polls close

An estimated 12,000 mail-in ballots were requested in the Esquimalt-Metchosin riding

Oak Bay High voting station was slow and steady for the provincial election day, Oct. 24, 2020. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Early voting reduces election day turnout in Oak Bay-Gordon Head

An estimated 15,918 mail-in ballots requested in Oak Bay-Gordon Head

This was the line-up outside Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre at around 2:30 p.m. Saturday. The short-up line speaks to the high number of votes, which have already been cast against the backdrop of COVID-19 by mail or in advanced voting. Voters, however, unanimously praised the safety measures in place, as well the convenience of the polling stations. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
‘Slow’ turnout at polls across Saanich North and the Islands

Peter Mason, district electoral officer, expects about 10,000 ballots to be cast

Barb Wright and Cynthia Vance at the District Electoral Office for the Langford-Juan de Fuca (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
Polls now closed in Langford-Juan de Fuca

An estimated 12,120 mail-in ballots were requested in the Langford-Juan de Fuca riding

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

The possibility of the Canadian Premier League expanding to the Fraser Valley has been floated online. (Facebook photo)
Canadian Premier League possibly eyeing Fraser Valley expansion

Soccer league looking to add ninth team to the mix, B.C. markets potentially rumoured

Most Read