First legal pot shops open doors in Victoria
Two Victoria pot shops are now open for business as fully licensed private retailers of recreational cannabis.
The Original Farm at 1402 Douglas St. and Cloud Nine Collective at 778 Fort St. were open Monday morning.
"I'm just excited to have it legal, and not have to worry anymore," said Ryley, an early customer at Cloud Nine.
Cannabis stores in British Columbia are required to hold both provincial and municipal licenses in order to operate legally. However, many stores in the city are still open, despite not being licensed.
"It's unfortunate. There is definitely public misconception," said Allan Lingwood with Original Farm. "[People think] cannabis is legal and therefore why wouldn’t all these shops be operating legally?"
Lingwood says some risk still exists when people purchase pot from stores that aren’t licensed.
"Products in our store now have been tested and are Health Canada-approved," Lingwood said. "They aren’t using pesticides or harmful chemicals, those are the things that can still exist in an under-regulated market or garden."
The shops say that the licensing process is lengthy, which is why some stores might be choosing to avoid it.
"It was a lot of waiting, but it's finally here and we’re finally open," said Brandon Arsens, owner of Cloud Nine.
The former Cloud Nine dispensary closed while Arsens waited for approval. It's the same story for the Farm, which closed its doors in October 2018 after the Cannabis Act was implemented.
"Our municipal licence was valid until January 15, 2019, but we knew we'd be operating illegally without a provincial license," said Lingwood.
The province is now cracking down on shops selling cannabis without the proper licences. A new Community Safety Unit, working within the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, is visiting unlicensed cannabis stores.
"The CSU can undertake a range of activities," said the ministry.
"They will be conducting inspections and investigations, seizing cannabis that is possessed in violation of provincial legislation, issuing violation tickets, issuing notices of administrative monetary penalties, applying to the B.C. Supreme Court for injunctions and making recommendations to the BC Prosecution Service when provincial and/or criminal charges are warranted.”