Herb's to close amid threats

John K. White

Faced with a potential $5-million fine and three years in prison, embattled medicinal cannabis retailer Russ Stevenson is closing his store in Vernon tonight at 6 p.m.

Stevenson has long been attempting to obtain the required licensing to operate legally under the new legalization framework for Herb's Healing Centre, but he has not been able to obtain provincial approval.

He held an informational rally at his store Tuesday afternoon attracting 30 or so supporters.

"Tomorrow morning, they've told me that I'm facing up to a $5-million fine and three years in prison and I can't afford to take that chance," Stevenson said to supporters at the Tuesday rally. "It's a big fine. It's kind of a ridiculous fine, and it's for somebody that's trying to help medical patients with prescriptions."

Vernon's mayor has previously stated Stevenson knows the rules and knows he should not be selling any marijuana products without a provincial license to do so.

“Unfortunately, that operation is operating outside of the law. The only one that can sell medical marijuana is the federal government,” said Cumming last Friday.

According to a release from the city, medical cannabis is available with a physician’s prescription by mail order and is regulated by the federal government. You cannot buy prescription cannabis at a retail location.

"We look after people, that's what we're here for, and we're not seeing the compassion out of the government," Stevenson said at the rally. "I don't know if we'll ever get our rec license. I really don't want our rec license. As soon as I have a recreational license I have to sell moldy crap from the government and I don't want to be involved in that."

Stevenson said he has no interest in selling recreational marijuana, and has remained open so he can continue providing product to his 2,800 clients who rely on him.

"We look after people with cancer. We look after people that are in the hospital. Ninety-nine per cent of cancer patients that are serious here get looked after for free," he said.

"I see the good we do, and I see the need. If I can't do what I do, with the quality that I do it, I don't even want to have a part of it," Stevenson said. "We are hurting people. Let's get over this and let's make a system that helps. We need medical stores now."

Along with medical marijuana, Herb's sells oils, topicals and other products not available at a recreational pot store.

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