Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club says province pressuring closure as group seeks exemption
VICTORIA -- The days may be numbered for a cannabis compassion club that has been providing marijuana-based products to its members in Victoria for more than 20 years.
The unlicensed cannabis retailer has been raided a number of times and is now facing a new threat in a push to shut it down. The owner of the building on Johnson Street that has been home to the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club may be prosecuted if the store remains open.
“The Community Safety Unit, a branch of the Solicitor General, has threatened our landlord if we are allowed to continue operating,” said Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club founder Ted Smith. “With fines or possible jail time coming to him if something isn’t done. He had no choice.”
Smith goes on to say that without a lease on the space, the club may be forced to relocate or close.
“There’s a chance at the end of March we may have to find a new way of operating,” said Smith.
The BC Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General said in a statement to CTV News that it can’t comment on the specific action against the buyers club.
It does say, however, that it is educating property owners about the potential consequences of selling unlicensed cannabis and is increasing enforcement across the province.
According to the ministry statement, this type of enforcement “is one more tool to help disrupt the illicit cannabis market.”
For one member of the club, who uses cannabis products to relieve the effects of psychological trauma and chronic back pain, there will be only one option left to buy what she needs if the club shuts its doors, she says.
“Return to the black market, it's just point blank,” said Heather Orlemann, a member of the buyer's club.
“They (the province) don’t have an outlet that exists close to what (the buyer's club) can offer and the next best thing is the black market,” she said.
The cannabis products offered by the club exceed the allowable amount of THC permitted under the Federal Cannabis Licensing Act.
Smith says the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club is trying to get an exemption from Health Canada so it can continue to retail the more potent products.
“We actually have to get exemptions from both levels of government,” said Smith. “We need to get an exemption from the provincial cabinet and we need to get an exemption from Health Canada.”
He says the club expects to have the application for the exemption prepared by its lawyers by the end of February. Until an exemption is granted, he says the club will remain open.
“We’ve been operating outside the law for 25 years,” said Smith. “It's in the best interests of the patients that we serve and the community as a whole.”