Nine months after cannabis was federally legalized, provincial powers have stepped in to close down some of the last unlicensed dispensaries in Victoria.
On July 31, members of the Community Safety Unit (CSU), a branch developed for enforcing new cannabis laws under the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, came to Victoria and shut down the Trees Island Grown dispensary location at 695 Alpha St., seizing all cannabis products.
The following day, the Trees’ 546 Yates St. location was also shut down, prompting the closure of the remaining five Trees shops in Victoria and Nanaimo.
“They did seize all of our cannabis products from all of our shops,” said Trees CEO Alex Robb. “There were no charges and no arrests.”
The CSU will now be cataloguing the products and send Trees a receipt; CSU will have up to one year to determine any fees against the company.
Robb said it was very unlikely that they’d get anything back even though some products, such as CBD-infused bath bombs, are “very benign.”
The closure means that more than 100 employees are out of jobs.
The Trees Restaurant at 537 Johnson St., opened by the same company with the aims to one day be able to serve edible cannabis, will remain open, and soon be serving dinner in addition to its breakfast menu.
“At first people were confused, because they saw the name and heard we’d wanted to participate in the Victoria consumption pilot,” Robb said. “Now they’ve realized it’s just a brunch restaurant in a very beautiful setting.”
Other dispensaries around town have also shut down due to provincial pressures, though the CSU did not seize products from these locations. Gulf Island Organics at 1040 Fort St. closed its doors on June 19, while Lotusland Cannabis Club (1601 Douglas St.), Esquimalt’s Pineapple Express (608 Esquimalt Rd.), and both the Gorge Road East and Johnson Street Medijuana dispensaries have closed in the past few months.
GIO Victoria is closed. We are in the process of legalising. Please be patient during this time. Thank you for all your support. We appreciate you so much.
— Gulf Island Organics (@island_GIO) June 19, 2019
Urban Earth Medicine, Green Buddha and Absolute Medicinal Dispensary have not officially posted about closing on social media, but are not answering phones. Absolute Medicinal also has no functioning website.
The only operating dispensaries in Victoria with provincial licencing are Cloud Nine Cannabis at at 778 Fort St., two Original FARM locations at 1402 Douglas St. and 3055A Scott St., and Clarity Cannabis at 603 Gorge Rd. E.
Ocean Grown Medicinal Society at 1725 Cook St. is still open, but no longer selling any cannabis products. Instead, the shop says its offering information to people interested in cannabis use.
The Victoria Cannabis Buyer’s Club at 826 Johnson St., a long-time compassion club where members are required to have a doctor’s note, is opting to stay open. In the meantime, the Vancouver Island Compassion Society at 853 Cormorant St. shut its doors on July 7 after its members felt threatened by provincial fines.
National Access Cannabis at 2571 Quadra St. will also remain open, as it doesn’t sell any cannabis products on site. Rather, it hosts a cannabis-friendly doctor who will prescribe patients cannabis from licensed retailers.
Lastly, the Terp City Cannabis Lounge at 950 Yates St. will also stay open.
“We are not a dispensary at Terp City,” said founder Kyle Cheyne in an emailed statement. “Much like a bar or a club we may operate similar[ly] but are a different business, that will be applying under a completely different format of licence once made.”
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