The doors of two Squamish dispensaries are closed.
The province took “enforcement action” on the morning of Nov. 5 at two dispensaries in Squamish – 99 North and Grassroots Medicinal.
Just before 11:30 a.m., RCMP and Community Safety Unit (CSU) members entered the dispensaries. The District of Squamish said the RCMP were present to maintain public safety while the CSU members executed their duties.
Squamish RCMP referred all questions to the CSU. Members of the CSU removed boxes of product from both locations. Colin Hynes, speaking on behalf of the unit, confirmed the CSU closed both businesses.
Hynes told The Chief the province has taken action or conducted educational visits at 191 stores in B.C. to date, including in Squamish.
He said the organization couldn’t release why these two shops were chosen and why on this date.
CSU, which is under the Policing and Security Branch of the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, is responsible for compliance and enforcement under the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act (CCLA), with a focus on the illegal sale of cannabis.
When asked what happens if a business reopens despite a CSU closure notice, Hynes said that hasn't happened yet.
The municipality was not alerted of the actions prior to them being taken, district staff told The Chief.
Bryan Raiser, the owner of 99 North, applied more than a year ago to the province to have a licensed shop. His was the first cannabis dispensary in Squamish to apply for a licence, he said.
He has yet to hear back, he said, despite repeated requests for information about his application process.
Only one shop in Squamish has been approved by the province to date, Sky High Cannabis.
“Council has been supportive of Mr. Raiser’s application [for 99 North] from the beginning, as evidenced through the development variance permit he received,” said Mayor Karen Elliott in an emailed statement to The Chief.
“Without knowing more details at this point, we are frustrated that the province was unable to provide any feedback or information to these applicants about the status of their applications or why approval has been delayed, before this enforcement action was undertaken.”
Outside his establishment, Raiser told The Chief the RCMP were seizing cash, while CSU was seizing product. At least half a dozen RCMP officers and members of the CSU were on the scene. A couple of customers dropped by to offer Raiser support.
“The reason they gave me is ... that it’s an illegal shop, and it’s been an illegal shop for five months. But the thing is, I have been so open and honest about operating this. The municipality, my MLA have all been very supportive... I've been on my knees, crying, begging the process to tell me what I can do. For 15 months, I’ve been waiting for a response to my application,” Raiser said.
Raiser told The Chief officials came in four months ago and said, “You’re illegal, you have to shut down. Then they left saying they would look into it. I was expecting a call.”
A notice of seizure was put up on 99 North’s windows and door stating it must be displayed until Dec. 4.
When asked how a 30-day closure would affect his business, Raiser said, “A 30-day closure? Oh, this is fucking done forever. The suffering that is being caused here today will ripple out. The store down the street is not selling these items. They're not selling edibles... The suffering that this is going to cause is untold, unnecessary and a waste of resources.”
During the operation, Raiser was telling the officers in his store that he would have closed if he knew his store’s products would be seized. He told The Chief he was expecting a phone call before such action would be taken.
When asked if he would attempt to reopen, Raiser said, “At this point, my only plan is to cry.
“I would love to open again... The dream is dead. The dream was not killed by a decision by the province, as it should have been. It has been killed by a bureaucratic delay and questionable use of resources. It is absolutely unacceptable. None of this had to happen.”
Raiser said his application is still active, and he continues to wait for a response.
At about the same time as officers took action on 99 North, there was another seizure happening on the other side of town. Officers from the CSU were seen removing boxes from Grassroots Medicinal Cannabis around 1 p.m. on Nov. 5. RCMP were standing by as the removals occurred.
Police at that location did not offer up anyone to speak to The Chief as the seizure was occurring.
Nathan Lidder, who identified himself as the legal counsel for Grassroots, said that CSU showed up without warning and started seizing material from the store.
“There was a seizure by CSU here today, so we’re in the process of setting up what our next step is going to be and what the plan is going to be,” he told The Chief, shortly after the raid.
He said the store did not receive a reason as to why the seizure was occurring.
“We don’t get notification; in fact CSU just arrived at the door, advised that they were entering the premises and seizing the product under the Cannabis Control Licence Act,” Lidder said. “They’ve taken what they say they can under the act.”
The store will be closed until further notice. In front of the store, at least one unknowing patron tried entering the dispensary. An officer standing outside told her it was closed, but that Sky High Cannabis was still open.