'We could have possibly lost it all': Victoria pot store reopens amid license uncertainty
A Victoria pot dispensary that shut down as it awaited a provincial license says playing by the rules nearly put it out of business.
Debbie Crookes, a floor supervisor at Green Heart Dispensary, says the business closed on legalization day, Oct. 17, on the advice of government officials.
The province warned private, unlicensed dispensaries to shut down as they awaited to be re-evaluated, but did not specify how long the process might take.
"That very same day was the first day of my layoff," she said. "It turned into a huge void for our medicinal users to access their medicine."
It became clear as bills racked up and employees were let go that the business had to reopen illegally in order to stay afloat, and it did just that.
"We could have possibly lost it all if we hadn't opened our doors," said Crookes. "The overhead for our space alone is huge, so having to close down and yet having to keep our business viable was almost, it was impossible, and hence we had to reopen."
But now, there's new concern that the business might lose out on a license because it opened its doors before obtaining one.
"It's incredibly frustrating," said Crookes. "We closed to stay compliant, we reopened again because viably it was impossible for us to stay closed."
Asked about the licensing situation in the province, Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said that every dispensary in B.C. has to follow the rules.
"I understand their frustration, but the fact is there are rules in place, there are laws in place, both federal law and provincial law," said Farnworth.
In Victoria, many stores remain closed while others have remained open, saying it's their only way to stay afloat.
The question now for workers like Crookes is whether their decision to reopen will influence the province's decision whether or not to issue it a license.
The province says only one private recreational cannabis store is operating in B.C., in Kimberley. A lone government-run store opened on legalization day in Kamloops.
B.C. hasn't provided a timeframe for licensing, saying it depends on factors "including the readiness of each individual applicant, the complexity of each application, and the readiness of a local government or Indigenous nation to accept notices of applications and return recommendations to the province."
The Ministry of the Attorney General says it has received more than 160 complete applications from businesses.
In Victoria, the city says it has received 12 preliminary referrals from the province to confirm whether applicants have city zoning.