Why BC’s dispensaries are screwed no matter what they do

There’s been a lot of news in Vancouver’s local cannabis scene lately, what with the Community Safety Unit hard at work raiding long-running dispensaries like The Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary (TMCD) on Thurlow.

That particular raid on Oct. 30 led to outrage and backlash, as it was seen by many as a step backward and actually harmful to the community that the authorities claim to be protected as those who depend on having reliable and affordable access to their medicine was left with few options.

This was despite TMCD actually going through the proper channels and being in the process of transitioning to the legal system- they were even halfway there, having already received their municipal license to operate. But that wasn’t enough for the Community Safety Unit, the provincial task force whose sole objective is enforcing BC’s Cannabis Control and Licensing Act (CCLA), who raided TMCD because they don’t have their provincial license yet.

TMCD owner Dana Larsen said in a Facebook post

“We were told by Vancouver and provincial authorities that as long as we complied with city bylaws and were in the process of obtaining a provincial permit that we could continue serving our community as we have been.”

You could argue that staying open post-legalization meant that TMCD was breaking the law, or at least still had one foot firmly planted in the grey market. While there is a point there about following the law to the letter, it would have abandoned all the patients that depend on them, as TMCD provides many medicinal products that are just not available in the legal system.

But what about the dozens of black market dispensaries in Vancouver that voluntarily shut down the day cannabis was legalized on Oct. 17, 2018, in the hopes of getting licensed? If you’re wondering what happened to them, the sad reality is that many of them never reopened.

Which only goes to show….

Even if you follow the law, you’re still screwed!

Interview with Vancouver dispensary that voluntarily closed Oct. 17, 2018

Cannabis Life Network reached out to Adam Blender, the manager of SWEED, who has happy to tell us about the bureaucratic nightmare he’s endured while trying to get his provincial license.

Adam said SWEED voluntarily closed when legalization took place to “better our chances of obtaining a license from the province” and “to show that we are fully invested in following the laws and regulations set forth by the government”.

Sadly, none of that helped them get licensed. Instead, the dispensary suffered through a seemingly endless process with different provincial analysts who seemed to have no communication with each other at all, which meant they constantly had to answer the same questions and submit the same documents as their case was passed between analysts.

After waiting months for the province to look at their file, the dispensary hired an outside consulting company to help, and within a day of that company contacting the province, they received an email from the province asking for a whole new set of documentation!

And that’s not even talking about the enormous cost to your business when you put it on hold for over a year while you go through the licensing process. SWEED has a prominent dispensary on Robson, and in order to keep it, they’ve got to pay the exorbitant rent as Robson is one of the world’s priciest shopping streets.

But SWEED is getting no assistance from the city or province. According to Adam:

“The Province and City consider what we are going through as a regular business expense.  They expect any potential non-medical cannabis retail stores to have enough financial backing to be able to wait months to even years, while they wait for a license to be granted. 

We have now been fully built out and awaiting our licenses for well over a year. Every penny we have spent on rent, insurance, utilities and any other additional costs we will never be paid back until we are able to open our doors and start to generate revenue. “

To sum it all up, he put it this way:

“This whole process has been absolutely horribly managed and extremely political.  We can’t wait to finally have our license and be past all of this B.S”.

Featured image courtesy of Brad’s Deals.