The owners of the S&M Medicinal Sweet Shoppe in Gibsons are taking the B.C. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General and the Community Safety Unit (CSU) to court after the CSU, the provincial agency responsible for enforcing the rules around recreational cannabis sales, raided the store on Feb. 18.
In a statement of claim filed in Vancouver Supreme Court on March 9, Michelle and Doug Sikora claim the CSU enforcement action amounted to “a warrant-less search and seizure of medicinal cannabis and medicinal cannabis products from a medical cannabis dispensary” in violation of sections 8 and 11 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and section 52 of the Constitution Act.
The Charter sections referenced in the statement of claim outline protections against unreasonable search and seizure and the right to be fully informed “without reasonable delay” of the specific offence with which you’ve been charged. Section 52 of the Constitution Act says any law that is inconsistent with the Constitution has no force or effect.
The Sikoras argue that B.C.’s Cannabis Act violates section 52 because it does not set out a requirement for the CSU to have a warrant.
“The S&M Medicinal Sweet Shoppe had a temporary use permit and a business licence from the Town of Gibsons to operate as a medicinal dispensary. The TUP and business licence was granted to the Sikoras post legalization,” the Sikoras said in their court filing.
Although they had a business licence and temporary use permit, the Sikoras chose not to apply for a licence under the province’s recreational cannabis sales regulations, and they argue in the statement of claim that because S&M Medicinal Sweet Shoppe operates as a medical dispensary and the federal and provincial laws regulate the “recreational cannabis industry,” the CSU “did not have the power to enter the premises without a warrant.”
The lawsuit also claims “members of the CSU searched, and seized cannabis from, Michelle Sikora’s parked personal vehicle without a warrant,” which they said is also a violation of the applicant’s section 8 Charter right, and that the CSU members failed to properly identify themselves and did not provide the Sikoras with a report of the items seized and a receipt.
Neither the province nor the CSU has filed a response to the Sikoras’ statement of claim, and none of the issues outlined in the suit have been proven in court.
Sun Coast Culture at 5670 Teredo St. in Sechelt, which has applied for a cannabis retail licence, was also raided by the CSU on Feb. 18.
At the time of the raids, the CSU told Coast Reporter that “licence applicants who continue to operate an illegal or unlicensed store risk being assessed as not fit and proper, which could result in the denial of their application.”
The province has also pursued very stiff administrative penalties for unlicensed cannabis store operators recently, including a $1.5-million fine for the owner of a small chain of cannabis stores on Vancouver Island and a civil forfeiture proceeding against a home belonging to the owner of a Squamish store that was raided by the CSU late last year.
As of March 10, only Coastal Bay Cannabis on Marine Drive in Gibsons and 420 Hemp Shop on Cowrie Street in Sechelt have been awarded licences.
– With files from Squamish Chief and Victoria Times Colonist