A crew from a B.C. government agency took virtually the entire stock from the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club on Thursday morning.
The Community Safety Unit from the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General is responsible for enforcement under the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act and focuses on the illegal production and sale of cannabis.
The unit carries out activities against unlicensed cannabis producers and retailers across the province.
Victoria police were on hand at the club’s headquarters on Balmoral Road, near Quadra Street, to ensure things went smoothly.
“We’re not involved in the enforcement action at all,” said spokesman Bowen Osoko.
An emotional Ted Smith, the club’s founder, said between $80,000 and $100,000 worth of products was taken by the unit, which arrived about 10 a.m.
In other similar cases there has been enough product stashed away in nooks and crannies to resume operations, but that was not what happened in this instance, Smith said.
“Every other time we’ve reopened the next day and had a fair amount of medicine available, but right now we’re in a lot of trouble,” he said. “I think we have no choice but to apply for an injunction now.”
He said he had been planning to put in a stash room at the site, which the club moved to just three weeks ago after having to leave its previous location on Johnson Street.
Smith said the club serves about 3,000 people a month.
“People count on our medicines for a range of conditions from cancer to chronic pain to epilepsy, arthritis, diabetes.”
The action taken was unexpected, Smith said.
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The ministry confirmed the Community Safety Unit was active Thursday but did not comment on specifics of what was being done.
Investigations result from “proactive strategies and in response to complaints received from the public, government agencies, police, legal market operators and others,” the ministry said in a statement.
“All along, the aim has been voluntary compliance, and we have been very clear that once legal cannabis retail outlets became operational in a community, the illegal retailers would face enforcement activities from the CSU.”
Smith and the club’s society were fined a total of $6.5 million in February 2022 for selling marijuana illegally at the Johnson Street site. The fine is under appeal, Smith said.
The fine was imposed following an inspection in May 2019 and raids at the unlicensed, non-profit dispensary in November 2019 and July 2020.
The organization is Canada’s oldest “compassion club” and has openly sold cannabis products since 1996.
Smith said the club is different from marijuana retailers in the level of advice it is able to provide and the potency of the product it offers, and the fact that it sources products from local growers. Stores get their stock from licenced producers, he said.
It launched a campaign for marijuana-law reform that led to a landmark 2015 decision by the B.C. Supreme Court to allow oils and edibles to be used as medicine.
In January 2020, Victoria council passed a motion supporting the club’s request for an exemption from the province’s cannabis regulations, which came as the club was advocating for changes to the rules regarding the production and sale of medical marijuana.