At least two illegally operating marijuana shops in Kamloops have been raided by the provincial government’s newly formed community safety unit tasked with shutting down illegal operations.
On Wednesday, a police cruiser could be seen outside Canadian Safe Cannabis Society at 405 Tranquille Rd. in North Kamloops and a notice of seizure was pinned to the door of Boomer’s Buds — formerly known as Weeds — at 107-1295 Halston Ave. in Brocklehurst when KTW attended at about noon.
That notice reads that “cannabis has been seized by the Community Safety Unit (CSU) from this location under the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act.”
A similar notice was later found pinned to the side of the Canadian Safe Cannabis Society building.
Kamloops RCMP Cpl. Jodi Shelkie said Mounties were at the locations in case the CSU required officers to keep the peace.
Colin Hynes, a spokesperson for the ministry’s CSU said the ministry is not commenting on its enforcement operations.
“All that we’re saying is we are actively following up with unlicensed retailers throughout all of B.C. and we’ve started to increase enforcement action throughout the province,” Hynes said.
Both Canadian Safe Cannabis Society (CSCS) and Boomer’s Buds are known to sell marijuana for medicinal purposes, but neither are regulated by federal or provincial laws.
Medical marijuana is currently only legally accessible via mail and through licensed recreational shops, but only dried bud and oils have been legalized to date.
Following legalization of recreational cannabis on Oct. 17, 2018, the CSU began warning illegal marijuana shops to comply with regulations and shut down voluntarily.
Kamloops lawyer Shawn Buckley, who has represented CSCS previously, described the timing of the raids as “crazy,” given that edibles will be legalized in a couple months, eliminating a grey area which, he argues, compassion clubs like CSCS have been able to operate in since a 2015 Supreme Court of Canada decision stating medical marijuana is legal to consume in all forms.
“They’re [compassion clubs] really fulfilling a service until they’re [edibles] available through other means,” Buckley said.
The federal government announced in June that marijuana edibles will be legalized on Oct. 17, 2019 — one year after dried cannabis was legalized — but supplies won’t likely be on shelves until mid-December.
“What’s lost on the province’s decision is any regard for people that legitimately rely on these things,” Buckley said, noting a large contingent of CSCS’s clientele are elderly people with chronic pain.
“What are they supposed to do if the province succeeds in shutting down all of these clubs?” Buckley asked. “Most of them are using cannabis for pain control because the other stuff doesn’t work or they don’t want to be addicted to opioids.”
Buckley said it doesn’t make sense that the federal government will wait until near the end of 2019 to legalize edibles.
“Why didn’t they come out with the regulations in 2015 to allow the medical producers to sell edibles? Why didn’t they do it in 2016? Why didn’t they do it in 2017? Why didn’t they do it in 2018?,” Buckley asked.
The Tranquille Road and Halston Avenue locations were two of just three illegally operating marijuana shops that were open when recreational marijuana was legalized on Oct. 17, 2018.
KTW visited another four locations that day that appeared to have already shut down.
The third remaining illegal shop — Phyven Herbal Dispensary, located downtown on Victoria Street — voluntarily shut its doors earlier this year, but the location was later taken over by Boomer’s, City of Kamloops business license inspector David Jones told KTW.
Boomer’s eventually closed that location, but kept its 12th Street business open, he said.
At one point Kamloops had 13 illegal dispensaries operating in town, with 11 closing their doors prior to this week’s actions by the CSU, Jones said.
Asked about the argument illegal shops are filling a medicinal need, Jones said they are supplying products that don't meet the requirements of Canada's medical access program.
For the people that need marijuana for medical reasons, Jones noted the three legal stores in Kamloops that can be utilized in addition to purchasing from Health Canada's medicinal suppliers.
"Unfortunately they probably don't have any edibles there, but they do have the option to buy it and make their own edibles, so there is access available," Jones said.
—This story was updated Aug. 1 to add additional comment from City of Kamloops business license inspector David Jones