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Confusion in Campbell River on first day of cannabis legalization

Some users puzzled as dispensaries close just before pot becomes legal across Canada
Both of the Giving Plant Society pot dispensaries in Campbell River – including this one in Willow Point – were shuttered the weekend before legalization. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

Campbell River’s two cannabis dispensaries shut down operations over the weekend to avoid conflict with the city, just before pot became legal across Canada on Wednesday.

The situation has created confusion, with Campbell River residents phoning the headquarters of WeeMedical – which operated the two Giving Plant Society outlets and other dispensaries across B.C. – asking why they’re closed on the first day of legalization.

“Today I got at least seven or eight phone calls from people asking why [we’re] not open,” said a WeeMedical official who asked not to be identified by name.

“They wanted to buy something and didn’t have access to it,” he said, adding that online sales are confusing for people who prefer to buy their cannabis at a retail outlet.

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“They want to buy it at a store,” he said. “They prefer to do that at a brick-and-mortar store than going online.”

Some dispensaries across the province are continuing to operate illegally, he said, noting that only a government-run store in Kamloops has a license.

He added that WeeMedical decided to shutter its stores in Campbell River because the company is trying to establish a good relationship with the local municipal government.

“We shut them down, and we’re waiting for provincial licenses to come through,” he said.

The local Giving Plant Society announced on Facebook last week that its two stores – one downtown and one in Willow Point – would close over the weekend, citing changes in licensing and product compliance.

But meanwhile, three proposals for legal pot dispensaries in Campbell River are currently in the works, according to the city.

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Kevin Brooks, Campbell River’s development services manager, said the city has received three referrals from the province, including two for private stores and one for a government-run retailer.

Those referrals “came in about a week ago,” Brooks said, adding that the shops would be located in Campbellton, Willow Point and the Discovery Harbour Shopping Centre.

Those proposed retailers have to meet a number of requirements, including 24-hour monitoring and security, before council will consider their applications.

The first one could be ready for consideration by council by the end of November, said Brooks, but the timing hinges on businesses providing necessary information about their proposed operations. If the city approves, the applications then go back to the provincial government.

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“If council then gives the green light on that, then we send our resolution back to the province for the issuance of a license from the province,” Brooks said. “Once they receive that, we issue our business license to them and they can open.”

In the meantime, locals are free to purchase their weed legally through a government-run website. But bylaws that received third reading on Oct. 1 are expected to ban the smoking of cannabis in public places throughout the city, including parks. Council is slated to adopt the bylaws on Oct. 22.

People are free to smoke in the privacy of home, he said, although some renters live in buildings with strict “no smoking” provisions that apply both indoors and outdoors.

“The federal government and the provincial government have made it very, very clear that people are permitted to consume cannabis within their private property,” Brooks said.

Meanwhile, police sent a warning to the general public about driving under the influence.

Cpl. Ron Vlooswyk, a spokesperson for the Campbell River RCMP, said that drivers should think twice about driving while high.

“If you’re impaired by drug or alcohol [and] you get stopped, it’s a criminal offence,” he said. “You’ll be charged. That hasn’t changed.”


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