VICTORIA -- The longstanding Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club (VCBC) is calling on the provincial government to grant it a temporary exemption from the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act to allow the store to continue supplying cannabis for its clients while it works to become fully licensed.

The unlicensed cannabis shop, which was recently raided by the provincial Community Safety Unit in November, held a protest outside of Finance Minister Carole James' office Wednesday. 

The club says it provides "critical" medicine to its clients, who are unable to find their preferred products or afford them at licensed government shops.

"We want to convince the government that it's in their best interest to grant us a temporary exemption so that we can continue our work and work with the government towards becoming fully compliant with the law," said VCBC founder Ted Smith.

Smith said he is frustrated with how the federal government has launched cannabis legalization, citing lengthy and convoluted licensing processes that fail to address the needs of local communities.

"At this point, the provincial government hasn't responded other than their official rhetoric that we're not in compliance with the law and that's why we're being shut down," said Smith. 

"But their responses on paper have been things like, 'our patients are not aware of the safety of the products because they're not as tested as Health Canada's products.' Well, the fact is they're not getting complaints from our patients about irregular products. In fact, we've had very consistent products for decades now," said Smith.

"It's very difficult for the government to argue that we're causing harm or potential harm when there's absolutely no evidence of that," he added.

The Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club owner says that out of the many raids the club has experienced over the past 23 years, this most recent inventory seizure was the most intimidating one, as the order came from sources that are far removed from the local community.

"This [raid] was different on a few levels," said Smith. "The people that raided us, they didn't want to be there. The politicians didn't want them to be there. The people making these decisions are very insulated from the public, but they're controlling what is happening on the ground." 

"It's very distressing to have no means to communicate or interact with the people that are really making the decisions," said Smith.

The buyers' club says that the protest held outside of James' office was not directed at the finance minister herself, but as a call for her to assist the unlicensed cannabis store in attaining a temporary exemption.

"Carole James would have been very upset with that raid because she knows that she's being held accountable now for decisions that she has no control of," said Smith.

"She's just being told by the bureaucracy that 'this is how it is, this is how we have to proceed.' She's not being given any opportunity to do anything about it, nor are the inspectors that came into the store," said Smith. "They're just dogs on a chain essentially."

"So it’s so different and so intimidating to be up against this massive mechanism of bureaucracy and law, but at the same time we know very deeply in our hearts that what we’re doing is right," he said. "And we’re not going to waver from that."

The Community Safety Unit is unable to comment on individual cases. The organization's purpose is to carry out compliance and enforcement against unlicensed cannabis retailers across B.C.