Medical marijuana dispensary closes its doors

One of Campbell River’s medical marijuana dispensaries has permanently shut down just weeks after setting up shop.

Trees Dispensary on 14th Avenue closed its doors roughly a week after RCMP raided the shop on April 6 and seized all money, cannabis flower and cannabis extracts on site.

Alex Robb, spokesperson for Trees Dispensary, said the police raid was not what forced the company’s hand.

“We were not deterred by the RCMP from serving our members in the community,” Robb said. “In light of the City of Campbell River’s move to explicitly prohibit the operation of medical cannabis dispensaries in the city, Trees Dispensary has decided to permanently shut down operations there.”

City council, at its April 11 meeting, gave first and second reading to a bylaw amendment prohibiting marijuana operations – including dispensaries – in Campbell River. Council, however, has not made a decision on whether or not it will follow through on the prohibition. At a public hearing Monday night, council heard arguments in support of medical marijuana dispensaries from those suffering from serious illness and disease.

Robb said there is indeed a need for such a service in Campbell River and said it was a “disappointment” to shut down the local dispensary.

“We have several members in Campbell River driving down to our dispensary in Nanaimo to get their medicine and now they’ll have to continue that,” Robb said, adding that “we will not abandon our members in this community.”

Robb said the company is planning to set up a cannabis dispensary in a North Island community that “takes a more progressive, forward-looking attitude and will develop business licensing standards for dispensary businesses in anticipation of the federal government’s legalization of cannabis.”

Port Alberni recently adopted such standards in order to allow medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in the absence of any federal legislation which is expected to be handed down in the spring of 2017.

Dispensaries currently operating across the country fall within a grey area and are opening up in anticipation of new legislation promised by the Trudeau government to legalize, regulate and control marijuana.

Robb said once that happens, Trees will “invest heavily in that community” that welcomes dispensaries.

“We want to offer a dispensary that operates as any legitimate business and that will require spending money to operate the site,” Robb said.

He said Trees aims to function just like any other company, even offering its employees full health and dental benefits.

Robb said Trees employs about 49 people in its dispensaries in Victoria and Nanaimo.

One employee was employed at the Campbell River location and Robb said that person will be re-located back to Nanaimo.

With the departure of Trees, that leaves WeeMedical, on 13th Avenue, as the lone medical marijuana dispensary in Campbell River.

Joel Wilson, one of the operators of WeeMedical, said his company’s intent is to work with the city to find a way for the dispensary to peacefully exist.

“We know the need is here and we want to stay here in this community,” he told city council at Monday’s public hearing.