Mike Gregory Ladysmith Chronicle
The Municipality of North Cowichan has delivered a lump of coal to two Chemainus dispensaries in the form of a $200 fine.
Leaf Compassion Cannabis Dispensary and Green Aura in Chemainus were slapped with tickets on Tuesday, Dec. 13 by the area’s manager of building and compliance for not having a business licence.
North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure said the dispensaries are operating contrary to federal law.
“I don’t see any grey area, it’s very clear. We can’t issue a business licence for an activity that is illegal,” he said.
Staff at Leaf Compassion, which has been in operation for nine months, were not shy about sharing news of the ticket with the community and took to Facebook to post a picture themselves with the piece of paper.
Leaf Compassion currently operates locations across the island including Victoria, Port Alberni, Saltspring Island and has plans to open a location in Nanaimo.
Owner Kyle Cheyne told the Chronicle the company approached North Cowichan prior to opening to work out a compromise.
“We knew we couldn’t apply [for a business licence] and we basically approached them and said we need to work towards this, every other municipality is working towards this,” Cheyne said, alleging the municipality wasn’t open to talks.
Leaf Compassion then received a letter prior to opening from North Cowichan listing sections of the Canadian Criminal Code that they’d be contravening by opening a dispensary.
“Basically they just said in the letter that they’re not going to issue me a licence and how it’s illegal by federal law,” Cheyne said.
The move by North Cowichan comes a few weeks after a second dispensary opened in Chemainus called Green Aura.
Store owners were also visited last week.
“When the district confirmed we were opening a cannabis dispensary, we were denied our licence. When the bylaw enforcement arrived, they had a copy of our application on hand,” said owner Cody Aginas.
“We assumed the reason we received the ticket first was due to our denied application.”
Lefebure said he also wasn’t able to discuss how North Cowichan may proceed in the future with combating dispensaries.
“I’m not able to discuss what legal actions have been taken before or will be taken in the future. Decisions are made in camera and I’m not able to discuss them,” he said.
Leaf Compassion has 3,500 members in Chemainus and over 70 per cent are over the age of 60 years old.
“They want to come into a place like we offer and get medicine,” Cheyne said.
“That alone should tell any municipality before people like me even come to listen to their community and give them what they deserve and that’s what we’re doing.”
Cheyne said he’d like to see regulations in North Cowichan such as those in Port Alberni where marijuana can’t be sold alongside items such as glass paraphernalia or rolling papers.
“I’m working with the city every day and it’s a beautiful thing and makes total sense and the sky isn’t falling and people are getting better,” he said.
As an example of how the dispensary is supporting communities, on Christmas Eve Leaf Compassion is donating 50 per cent of its proceeds to the BC SPCA with the goal of reaching $14,000.
“How many businesses can you point out in this country right now can do something like that?” he said.
Leaf Compassion remains optimistic that a compromise can be struck but has no plans to close its doors anytime soon despite the possibility of further action by either the municipality or RCMP.
Cheyne said he’s still finding areas within the industry for growth and people will be surprised by the opportunities if the marijuana is legalized.
“I’m just taking this industry as it comes and there’s opportunities that are popping up in every direction,” he said.
“I won’t give up on it. I feel like this is my calling and I just need to keep going.”
Last week, a federal task force on legalized recreational marijuana recommended in its 106-page report that storefront and mail-order sales be available to Canadians 18 years and up.
“There will be several opportunities to consult Canadians as the government proceeds to legalize, and strictly regulate, cannabis,” said the federal government in a media release.
North Cowichan is awaiting changes from Ottawa before it plans to make any moves locally.
“We follow what the federal government does and if they change the federal law that could put us in a different circumstance,” Lefebure said.