The Trees Cannabis store at 546 Yates St. was closed Aug. 1 by the province. Soon after, the retailer suspended operations at all of its other locations. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

The Trees Cannabis store at 546 Yates St. was closed Aug. 1 by the province. Soon after, the retailer suspended operations at all of its other locations. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

Trees Cannabis closures impact pain management for regular customers

Vancouver Island retailer offered high-potency cannabis products, many say they can’t get elsewhere

The recent closure of Trees Cannabis locations has left some Vancouver Island customers scrambling to find the products they rely on for pain relief and symptom management.

Ina Baker, 70, said she stocked up after the first Trees store closed in Victoria. But the Nanaimo-based lung cancer survivor fears the day she runs out of the 3,115 milligram-THC oil she dilutes and consumes in capsules.

“I use a capsule of THC oil every night before I go to bed,” she told Black Press Media over the phone. “It helps with nerve damage as a result of [doctors] removing a part of my lung and the 25 radiation treatments I had in Victoria.

“THC oil provides me with pain relief and a good night’s sleep.”

READ ALSO: Popular unlicensed Victoria cannabis dispensary shut down by province

But with Trees gone, Baker’s options are limited. There are some THC oils available on the licensed market – but few come close to the potency she’s used to.

“I understand and I know in my heart that marijuana needs to be respected, I’m really sorry that Trees didn’t have their licensing,” Baker said. “I’m hoping it’s going to be open in time for me to get my product.”

Trees Cannabis had stayed open while going through the process of obtaining a provincial license, but on July 31, the Public Safety and Solicitor General’s Community Safety Unit (CSU) shut down the location on Alpha Street, seizing all of the store’s cannabis products. At the time, CEO Alex Robb planned to suspend operations at remaining locations two weeks later, but the next day the CSU moved in on the Trees Cannabis on Yates Street.

To avoid jeopardizing the licensing application, Robb closed the rest of the Victoria locations that day. Not long after, he suspended operations at Nanaimo stores as well.

READ ALSO: Province cracks down on second Victoria Trees Cannabis location, all to close today

Marilou Gagnon, a registered nurse, substance use researcher and associate professor at the University of Victoria, said from a public health standpoint, the province’s swift shutdown was not managed thoughtfully.

“You have basically removed the access point for people who were very used to [the products],” she noted. “Of course there’s a licensing process, no one is going to say that doesn’t exist. People should follow the rules, but … I think closing the way they did goes against a public health stance.”

Gagnon added a conscientious approach to legalization includes a harm reduction plan, but with all Trees locations quickly shuttered following the government shutdowns, there may be more harm than good for regular customers.

“People [are] without their access point, without their trusted relationship, without any warning, without any options of planning for having another access point,” she said. “From a public health standpoint, it’s a big fail on all levels. You’re cutting people from their trusted supply. You’re potentially pushing them to an unregulated supply, or you’re going to make them unable to access a product that is legal in Canada.”

K.D. Smith from Langford is weighing her options for high-potency THC oils in the wake of the closures and said she will likely have to pay at least twice what she was when she bought her preferred product at Trees.

“It’s now twice the amount it was,” she said. “A lot of people are pensioners, they can’t afford to buy it as it is priced now.”

Smith suffers from fibromyalgia, arthritis and leukemia. She uses the pills topically for pain relief.

“It worked really well because I could put it on the area I was having trouble with and within half an hour, basically the pain was gone,” Smith said. “Now I’m needing a painkiller.”

READ ALSO: Unlicensed cannabis dispensaries now closed in Victoria

One way Gagnon said the government could have mitigated public health impacts was by providing a set closure date for unlicensed retailers.

“I think that would have shown [they were] doing their homework, knowing the potential impact, avoiding harm, reducing costs, reducing job loss, all these things should be priority for a government,” she said.

At the time of the first shut down, Robb told Black Press Media that he hopes to see Trees Cannabis licensed by early November. The retailer is still in the financial screening process of its licensing application.



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

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

Just Posted

Island Health has confirmed the first long term care facility outbreak in Greater Victoria at Veterans Memorial Lodge in Saanich. (Google Maps)
Island Health records first long-term care COVID outbreak in Greater Victoria

Veterans Memorial Lodge in Saanich confirms one positive staff member

Itty, a Siamese cat, has been missing since a house fire in Victoria’s Fernwood neighbourhood on Friday, Nov. 27. Her owner says she has white fur with blonde and grey markings. (Facebook/ROAM)
Cat goes missing after house fire in Fernwood neighbourhood

‘Itty’ has white fur, blonde and grey markings and blue eyes

An aerial view over Oak Bay. (Black Press Media File Photo)
An aerial view over Oak Bay and the Marina. Oak Bay residents pay the highest taxes on Vancouver Island. Don Denton/Black Press
Oak Bay secondary suites study considers units old and new

Secondary suites draft report due in new year

Westcoast Impressions plans to organize a COVID-19 friendly version of the event in 2021 at the Mary Winspear Centre after having cancelled the 2020 version against the backdrop of pandemic. The opening night of the 2019 Sidney Street Market featured more than 150 vendors lined along Beacon Avenue. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sidney Street Market plans for 2021 return at Mary Winspear Centre

Tentative plan calls for the event’s return to Beacon Avenue after COVID-19 pandemic

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

Most Read