A director of Black Crow Herbal Solutions, which runs a store in West Kelowna that bills itself as a cannabis “dispensary,” and which had it’s business licence cancelled by West Kelowna city council on Tuesday, says despite council’s move the store will continue to operate.
The business licences for the West Kelowna Black Crow store and another dispensary, which unlike Black Crow only provides cannabis products to members of a club it operates and does not sell to anyone “off the street,” were both cancelled because what they are doing is currently illegally in Canada.
The second business, The Healing Company, is located on Stevens Road in West Kelowna. It provides cannabis product to roughly 700 members.
Robert Jaenicke, a director of Black Crow Herbal Solutions in Vernon, where it has a second store, told the Vernon Morning Star newspaper that with or without a business license, the West Kelowna store on Westgate Road will remain open.
And he questioned why West Kelowna council cancelled the business licence at this time.
“Why now? Why after all this time? he said.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me because I’ve been operating now for three years. I’m just not sure what their rush is now?”
In a presentation to council on Tuesday, a woman who identified herself as the company’s regional manager, Selina Lau, asked council to hold off making any decision until it is known how the province plans to proceed with the distribution of cannabis given the federal government intends to legalize marijuana in Canada starting next summer.
She said unlike The Healing Company, people are allowed to buy cannabis products from Black Crow stores, but only if they have a valid medical reason for purchasing and are of legal age. Black Crow does not operate a club and there are no members she said, in response to a question by Coun. Bryden Winsby.
Jaenicke admitted to the Morning Star that the business has been illegal “since the day we opened.”
Lau said it has followed all the rules put in place by the City of West Kelowna and she added it was even cited as an example of how a cannabis dispensary should be operated by the city in the past.
David Towill, a lawyer representing the Healing Company also asked the city to hold off cancelling his client’s business licence until next spring when it’s expected Victoria will decide how cannabis is to be distributed in B.C.
The federal government has left it up to the provinces to decide on the distribution method. In Ontario, the government there has already announced it will be sold there through provincially owned and operated stores.
Towill said if the B.C. government decides to allow private dispensaries, his client’s store could continue operating. If not, his client accepts the store would have to close. But he said forcing closure now will hurt the 700 club members who rely on cannabis products for health-related issues every day.
Under questioning by Winsby, Towill admitted the way the Health Company currently operates is illegal.
Both Lau’s and Towill’s requests to hold off on a decision were rejected by council, which voted unanimously to cancel both business licences.
Towill said any decision about staying open without a business licence had yet to be made by his clients.
Lau, quickly left the council chamber after the decision was voted on, refusing to comment. She said no one from her company speaks to the media.
Coun. Rusty Ensign said he didn’t like having to vote to cancel the business licences but said he had no choice because of the illegality of the sales. Coun. Rick DeJong said he voted to cancel because of the illegality and because of concerns about the lack of a regulatory program to ensure the quality of the cannabis being sold.
There are currently four other “dispensaries” operating in West Kelowna as non-profit businesses but they do not have business licences that can be cancelled. The Capital News has learned the RCMP are investigating those businesses with an eye to shutting them down too.
Earlier this year, the city asked the RCMP if the cannabis sales in West Kelowna through the “dispensaries” were illegal and the city’s top cop, Staff-Sgt. Leslie Roseberry, said they were illegal.
At the time, Mayor Doug Findlater said council would not press the police to shut down the dispensaries, but did expect the West Kelowna RCMP to do its job given the illegal nature of the sales.
The city decided to act on the business licences through its bylaw department because it was easier than having the police investigate and lay charges in order to shut down the businesses.
The decision to cancel the The Healing Company’s licence hit at least one customer hard.
Leslie Flammand, a cancer survivor who suffers a number of other illnesses including PTSD, was in tears as she left he council chamber Tuesday.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she said wiping away the tears rolling down her cheeks.