Vancouver Dispensary Ordered to Close by City

A Vancouver dispensary owner is questioning why he is being told to close down based on break-ins to his business and charges he hasn’t been convicted of.

Budzilla operator Rejean Houle received a letter from the City of Vancouver letting him know that his application for a business license has been denied due to too many bylaw infractions and police involvement with his shop.

Despite qualifying for the city’s licensing process based on his distance of more than 300 metres from schools or community centres in the area, Houle learned, several months ago, that he was within range of pending dispensary applications and would enter a “declustering” process.

Houle said, as of yet, no dispensaries have started operating in the area.

“Theres’s apparently two applications and, so far, three months later, there’s still no other dispensaries within 300 metres,” Houle said.

The declustering process, which the city created to whittle down the number of dispensaries next to one another, used a series of demerits across several categories to grade the businesses. The operation with the fewest demerits at the end of the process would be allowed to continue with its application, while the remainder would be forced to find a new location or shut down.

Houle received 17 demerits for his application, including 10 for operating as a for-profit business and three for doing work on the space without a permit.

Budzilla was also given four demerits for “continued by-law infractions” and having his “location considered a problem premise” by the Vancouver Police Department.

“The VPD have concerns with the location as there are five charges pending from 2014, two for trafficking, three for possession,” read the letter, signed by deputy chief license inspector Sarah Hicks. “In August and November of 2014 there were break and enters.”

Houle said he shouldn’t be given demerits for these issues.

“I get a demerit point because I was broken into?” Houle said. “How is a business and or individual supposed to be responsible for being violated?”

The owner also said the charges are still pending against him, and shouldn’t be factored into the demerit system.

“The City of Vancouver charged me, I get another demerit point, so now I’m getting convicted before I’ve even stood trial,” said Houle.

The letter also stated that Budzilla violated city bylaws with a “history of poor business practices,” including advertising the sale of edibles and shipment of its product across the country.

With Houle’s development permit refused by the city, he now has the option to find an alternate location and begin the process again (before July 22, 2016) or appeal his rejection to the Board of Variance within 30 days.

“Regardless of the option you choose, you must cease medical marijuana-related retail operations at your current location before Friday, July 22, 2016,” the letter stated.

Houle said he plans on appealing the decision.

“I will be applying at the Board of Variance,” said Houle. “Not only will I be applying for these changes, but I will be seeking legal council to be able to represent me because, at this point, I feel like I’m being discriminated against.”

“This is turning into an absolute sham, absolute extortion,” said Houle. “We’re here to help people, why are we being persecuted like this?”

Read the full rejection letter from the city, here