After legal dispute, Saanich Peninsula marijuana ‘bunker’ is ready to grow again

The owner of the Saanich Peninsula’s standalone cinder-block marijuana-growing room says he’s preparing to lease out the 5,600-square-foot space after getting back thousands of dollars worth of equipment that had been removed by its previous tenants.

Phil Illingworth, who owns the grey, bunker-like building, said the equipment was returned by Evergreen Medicinal Supply this week in compliance with a court order. An affidavit sworn by Evergreen director Michael Galbraith said all items have been returned to the site at 6922 Lochside Dr.

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Included in the list of 394 items was grow-op equipment, lighting, electronics, office supplies, shop materials, freezers, lockers and a generator.

Illingworth said all of it had been stripped from the building at the end of January.

Evergreen has not responded to requests for an interview over the last week.

Health Canada suspended the licence of the cannabis grower in the fall, effectively shutting down the operations of the six-year-old company.

Before that, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled Evergreen had to hand over the keys to the building as a result of a dispute over more than $400,000 in unpaid rent.

The company was given until Aug. 31 to hand over the keys and vacate the premises. The company appealed that ruling, but lost in the fall and was ordered to leave by the end of January.

Illingworth said the company did leave, but before doing so, it took the equipment. He said the courts had ruled the equipment must remain until the rent had been paid. “It’s frustrating. I don’t know why they felt they had to do that,” Illingworth said of the removal of goods. “The court ordered them to leave.”

The equipment taken might still have to be replaced before another grower could start operating in the purpose-built building.

Illingworth said he has had plenty of interest from other companies wanting to use the space as a grow-op, and he is in negotiations with a new tenant.

“The intention is to get somebody else in here, and it should have been a [turn-key] operation — all they should have had to do is walk in, clean up and start,” he said. “Now, it looks like the next tenant will have to re-equip the space.”

Illingworth said he is going to fix and re-seal a leaking wall that has left puddles of water in the space after the recent heavy rains.

Health Canada suspended Evergreen’s licence after an unannounced inspection of the facility on April 29 last year.

That inspection resulted in “a number of critical observations and an overall non-compliant rating for the inspection.” Operations were suspended Aug. 9.

Before its licence was suspended, Evergreen Medicinal was authorized to cultivate, process and sell dried and fresh cannabis, cannabis plants and cannabis seeds to both provincial and territorial distributors and directly to patients authorized to use cannabis for medical purposes, Health Canada said.

The Evergreen story goes back to 2013, when then-principal Shawn Galbraith approached Illingworth and asked him to find a location for Evergreen.

Galbraith intended to apply for a Health Canada licence to produce medical marijuana and he needed a production facility.

Illingworth purchased the land at 6922 Lochside Dr., paid to build the facility and then leased it to Evergreen.

Galbraith, who was working for Welton Construction at the time, was to build the facility.

The two parties, Evergreen and Illingworth, disagreed over when rent would be applicable and eventually went to court.

Illingworth alleged he was owed rent for the period of January 2014 to February 2017, while Evergreen claimed it was only obligated to pay rent starting in August 2017.

The courts, sided with Illingworth.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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