Chilliwak’s WeeMedical dispensary has racked up thousands of dollars in fines from the city in an effort to shut the business down, but staff promise they aren’t going anywhere.
After opening a few weeks ago, the shop was visited by city officials and RCMP, who said the dispensary was in violation of city zoning requirements and was operating without a business license. Since then, the city has been handing out fines of $1000 for every day the doors stay open, along with $500 fines to each of the building’s landlords.
“They haven’t tried to communicate or discuss this with us at all, it was just the letter to cease and desist and not do business,” said WeeMedical dispensary manager Shayli Vere. “They’ve even attacked the landlords here, and we haven’t experienced this before, they’re actually fining the landlords that have nothing to do with our business, so they’re being very aggressive.”
Vere said, even while they incur the daily fines, the shop will remain open and operate in the city.
“We’re here to cooperate and we’re here to help the community move into regulation,” said Vere. “Definitely there’s some balking, but we’ve been through this before.”
Vere said as WeeMedical has expanded across the country (the chain currently has seven shops with two more opening soon) they’ve run into opposition from local governments but have been able to resolve the issues without shutting down.
In Port Alberni, WeeMedical faced similar issues before the local council reversed their stance and issued the shop a business license.
Vere said she expected Chilliwack to do the same once it listens to the community and their need for the dispensary.
“There’s a lot of pain here, I’ve never seen anything like it, there’s a lot of sick people here,” said Vere. “For them to say they don’t have the right to medical cannabis is immoral, in my opinion.”
Other than receiving daily fines, which Vere said the shop is contesting, they haven’t had any communication from the city or RCMP.
“The [RCMP] came by and watched who was coming and going and talked to some of our patients and we haven’t seen them since,” said Vere. “Probably we’re very low on their list or priorities. They’ve got their hands full and, frankly, they don’t have the money. So we’re going to continue doing business and they mayor’s going to continue fining us.”
Vere said as more and more Canadians learn about the benefits of medical cannabis she expects a shift in attitude toward shops like hers.
“Every tipping point comes to a point where it’s going to go the other way,” she said. “It’s got to to be at a point and I think we’re at that point. Trudeau knows we’re at that point. We’re at the point where it’s not right and we have to do what’s right.”
The dispensary is currently collecting signatures along with encouraging local patients to contact city council and express their opposition to council’s decision.
“I’m fired up and the community is behind us too,” Vere said. “They are not happy with the city council and their mayor and they need and want us here.”