Hillcrest Avenue residents are banding together to express concerns about a medical marijuana dispensary they say brings undesirables into the neighbourhood.
The Stash Box sells pipes and other smoking paraphernalia at 640 Fifth St. It is also home of Paradise Island Compassion Society, a dispensary for medical cannabis users and, according to the City of Nanaimo, is the registered address for an escort agency.
Since it opened last year, residents on adjacent Hillcrest Avenue say they have noticed an increase in drug users, crime and needles in their south Nanaimo neighbourhood.
Danny Swadden operates the store and compassion club. Crystal Swadden, his wife, runs Midnight Angels escort service, but says the business does not operate from that location.
"In the last little while, we've seen an increase in hypodermic (needles), and an increase in prostitution," said nearby resident Mike Ashe.
"We feel that it's encouraging drug-addicted people to come into the area and abuse the system," said Darrah Worledg. "Drugs and prostitution are something we in Harewood have been fighting for decades. The last thing we need is anything that encourages that type of activity."
Clem Lavie said he saw a man urinating at the Hillcrest side of the building, in full public view.
"This was very blatant, [he was] almost exposing himself, like he didn't care," Lavie said.
A resident complained to police about an escort agency operating from the same address, and Nanaimo RCMP are "monitoring the situation," said Const. Gary O'Brien.
Assistant city bylaws manager Rod Davidson said Midnight Angels is licensed to that address, which is zoned for the use, but said talks are underway as to "whether the business will continue operating from that location."
Crystal Swadden blames a neighbour for polarizing neighbours against them.
"She's run around the neighbourhood with a petition that we're Hells Angels," Swadden said. "There is prostitution all over Harewood. I operate an escort agency, I don't work with prostitutes."
The Swaddens filed a complaint to police about harassment from their neighbour, she said. The neighbour declined to comment.
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