UPDATED: Pot shops raided in Sechelt, Gibsons

Two local cannabis shops had their product seized Feb. 18 by the Community Safety Unit (CSU), the provincial agency responsible for enforcing regulations around cannabis retailers.

Sunshine Coast RCMP said while it was a CSU investigation, police were also present “for the safety of the Community Safety Officers while they conducted their enforcement.”

One of the cannabis stores raided by the CSU was Sun Coast Culture, formerly WeeMedical, at 5670 Teredo St. in Sechelt.

S&M Medicinal Sweet Shoppe at 706 Gibsons Way in Gibsons was also raided Tuesday.

Last November, Sechelt council recommended approval of Sun Coast Culture’s application for a licence from the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch. It was one of four applications council endorsed.

In an email to Coast Reporter, Keir Macpherson of Sun Coast Culture said during the more than 18 months the company has been involved in the licensing process, it “has always endeavoured to comply with the seemingly ever changing laws and procedures.”

Macpherson went on to thank people for their support “throughout this frustrating and lengthy process.”

“We will continue to wait and wait and wait for the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch to issue our long awaited [retail] licence and will reopen our doors immediately following issuance,” he said.  

S&M co-owner Michelle Sikora said she was at home at the time of the raid, but was alerted by her husband, Doug, that CSU and RCMP had entered the store.

Sikora said CSU agents seized all the cannabis products in the store, but left glassware and other items. Sikora disputes whether S&M should even have been a target for enforcement, despite not having a provincial licence, because it has always operated under a dispensary model.

S&M was the only cannabis retailer on the Coast that chose not to apply for licensing under the province’s recreational cannabis rules. It currently has a retail business licence from the Town of Gibsons and a Temporary Use Permit zoning the property for cannabis sales that was set to expire Feb. 20.

“We are a medical dispensary,” Sikora said. “Anybody that comes into our store has to have a medical diagnosis, proof of prescription – they have to show us that they’re using it for medical purposes.”

Sikora is also questioning the legality of a move to search her personal vehicle.

CSU notice
A seizure notice posted on the door of the S&M Medicinal Sweet Shoppe Feb. 18. - Michelle Sikora

CSU members were on the Coast last June and visited S&M, Sun Coast Culture and the other cannabis retailers, who at the time were all still selling product despite no licences having been issued.

The agency described the visits as “education to raise awareness about cannabis laws, the penalties and consequences for violating federal and provincial regulatory regimes.”

So far only Coastal Bay Cannabis on Marine Drive in Gibsons has received its full recreational cannabis retail licence.

In a Facebook post, Sikora said S&M planned to reopen Feb. 19 and she told Coast Reporter she planned to rally with supporters outside MLA Nicholas Simons’ office to protest the raid at 2 p.m. Feb. 21. “They have hurt a lot of people in our community by doing this.”

The CSU said it does not comment on specific enforcement actions, but it is “increasing enforcement action against unlicensed retailers” that could be followed by administrative penalties.

The statement to Coast Reporter also said, "licence applicants who continue to operate an illegal or unlicensed store risk being assessed as not fit and proper, which could result in the denial of their application.”

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