Port Coquitlam cracks down on cannabis dispensaries with bylaw change

It is now tougher to operate a pot shop in Port Coquitlam, a city of 55,000 residents located east of Vancouver. City council passed a bylaw change Nov. 28 that allows for punitive measures to be taken against landlords found renting their properties for illegal purposes, which currently include medicinal cannabis dispensaries due to the federal Liberal government’s slow progress towards announced plans for legalization.

The changes mean owners of residential and commercial properties now face fines for their tenants’ activities. Under the amendment, the city would first issue fines to landlords found breaching the bylaw. After five years of non-compliance, the city would reserve the right to sell the property and keep the proceeds.

“We think the land owners have some responsibility in ensuring what goes on in their building actually is according to bylaws and the laws of this country,” said Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore. “They don’t have a business license and they can’t get a business license because their operation is illegal. We don’t want our young kids, we don’t want anybody to go take part in illegal activity.”

One the city’s busiest pot shops is operated by Cannabis Culture, which was raided by RCMP last Thursday (Nov. 24) around 3 p.m. No arrests were made although stock was seized as part of an investigation into the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Cannabis Culture’s owners are also receiving daily $150 fines from the city for operating without a business license.

“Bylaw fines are part of the cost of doing business right now,” said Cannabis Culture co-owner  Jodie Emery. “ We believe in what we’re doing so we don’t close down unless the persecution and punishment becomes too heavy and harmful to our peaceful people who work in and operate the franchise locations. We make sure there are lawyers on retainer for every location to cover the costs of any arrested employees and to challenge the law in court when needed. We believe in peaceful civil disobedience to demonstrate what legalization should look like.”

Cannabis Culture’s PoCo outlet, located in a strip mall near Lions Park, was open for business the following day.