A popular Victoria cannabis dispensary, Trees Island Grown, had one of their locations shut down by the BC government Wednesday morning.
Very few details have been released at this time, but VicPD told Victoria Buzz that their officers were at the Trees location on 695 Alpha Street to assist the province’s Ministry of Public Safety & Solicitor General (PSSG).
According to the PSSG, the closure is a Community Safety Unit (CSU) operation.
“We can’t discuss any action regarding unlicensed retailers,” a PSSG spokesperson told Victoria Buzz.
The government organization did say that the CSU was conducting an “educational campaign” and is “visiting unlicensed retailers across the province,” however.
According to the BC government, the CSU is responsible for compliance and enforcement of dispensaries under the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act.
“CSU investigators carry out compliance and enforcement activities against unlicensed cannabis retailers and other illegal sellers across the province,” reads the provincial website. “The CSU has the authority to enter premises where cannabis is being sold without a provincial retail store licence and take enforcement action, including making seizures of cannabis.”
Victoria residents who visited the Alpha Street Trees location today told Victoria Buzz that officers at the dispensary were redirecting people to two legal cannabis retailers, Clarity Cannabis and The Original FARM.
“I just went there this morning, like lots of people do, and there was a whole whack of cops out front,” a resident told Victoria Buzz.
“I asked one cop what was going on and what she essentially said was that they were operating illegally.”
At the time of publication, only the Trees Island Grown dispensary on Alpha Street had been ordered to shut down. The retailers’ other six locations remain open, but are set to suspend all operations on Friday, August 16th.
“We hope they reopen soon as licences cannabis stores…”
Trees’ Alpha Street location is just the first of the entire chain to close, according to the retailer’s Director and General Manager, Alex Robb.
The popular cannabis dispensary chain will suspend operation at all of their locations by Friday, August 16th, to abide by the CSU’s request.
Before today’s provincial action, Trees had planned to suspend operations in September, 2019. The dispensary was aware of upcoming provincial enforcement, and hoped to voluntarily get ahead of the situation by suspending operations before CSU arrived.
With seven locations across the island, Trees had to first give all 92 of its employees at least eight weeks notice of the dispensaries’ temporary closure, as per labour policies when a mass termination of people occurs in an area, Robb said.
“We hope to reopen soon as licensed cannabis stores, and we do hope that we can hire all our employees back again when we are licensed,” said Robb.
While the CSU seized all of Trees’ Alpha Street location’s cannabis, no arrests were made no charges were laid.
Based on the timelines of when other retailers received provincial licensing, Trees anticipates that it will restart all of its operations in late October or early November, 2019.
“I hope the outcome of this is a larger discussion…”
The closure of Trees’ Alpha Street location is largely due to the store’s popularity and complaints from licensed Vancouver Island retailers, according to Robb.
“I believe the reason that they [CSU] targeted us is because that particular location is the busiest location that’s operated on Vancouver Island,” Robb told Victoria Buzz.
“I think that it was a very strong signal to us and other unlicensed operators that enforcement is coming, and this is how they felt they’d have the largest impact.”
Trees’ other locations remain open to help give employees and clients time to prepare.
“It’s important to give our employees time to prepare for suspension of operations and for our medical clients to have time to stock up on products that aren’t carried at other spaces.”
“Part of our operations is that we offer subsidy programs for those with terminal conditions and that unfortunately is another program that we are going to have to suspend.”
“I hope the outcome of this is a larger discussion in the public of the inadequacies of provincial licensing for people who use cannabis for medical purposes,” added Robb.