By the ounce  

BC pot: could be worse...

If you think the painfully slow retail rollout in B.C. is bad, take a little trip over to Ontario.

Like a game of Monopoly, it’s a roll of the dice in Canada’s most populous province to see where the cannabis players land.

The province uses a lottery to determine who gets to open up a retail cannabis store. They announced the latest 42 lucky ones randomly generated from the 4,864 eligible expressions of interest.

It’s been a clumsy roll-out, with glaring gaffes.

Among the latest winners is the address of the province’s most notorious black market shop — Café. The dispensary has been subject to police raids, arrests, and cement barriers blocking entrances. In defiance, they continued to sell weed on the sidewalk outside, even putting up a mocking sign with their pop-up operating hours.

Now a numbered company with its address at the illegal store’s location at 104 Harbord Street in Toronto won a licence. It’s unclear if the people behind the company are owners of the black market chain, but the connection is being made.

The lottery resulted in other anomalies, including a dumb distribution of stores. The small town of Innisfil (population 30,000), for example, gets three stores — two side by side, even — while bigger municipalities, like Etobicoke, are underserved.

End the madness

Longtime cannabis industry insider and advocate Abi Roach has started a petition to end the lottery system.

“Ontario has now run two insane cannabis retail lotteries,” she says. “No other business gets a business license in this random fashion. Why does cannabis?”

Roach, who is the founder of Hotbox, says the lottery system “breeds corruption, regulatory loop holes, and worst of all it has no merit-based need for entry.”

David Wylie publishes the oz. — follow okanaganz on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Subscribe to the newsletter @ the oz.

Cautionary cannabis tale

If you’re growing your own weed, you need to read this.

A Revelstoke couple who opened their home to guests for a charity fundraiser have warning for people trying to legally grow their own cannabis in B.C.

Anna Minten and Emmanuel Levesque Dupere’s story has made headlines across Canada after they had their Revelstoke home raided by RCMP because their three cannabis plants were “visible to the public.”

Minten says five police officers in three cruisers showed up at their house with a search warrant, went through their home and their tenant’s suite, sheared the lock off their shed and cut down and confiscated their cannabis plants.

“Trust me, we are just as baffled as everyone hearing this story, which is why I feel it's so important to share it,” says Minten, adding she was surprised to find out cannabis plants have to be completely hidden.

“You need to read deep into Cannabis Act to find that lil loophole,” she says.

The Revelstoke Mountaineer first reported the story, and it has taken off: on Reddit, on CBC’s As It Happens, on The Globe and Mail, and many other media.

Hits at home

The whole debacle has had a personal impact.

I’ve been growing two little plants, named Betty and Boop. Living in a condo, my balcony is the best place I have to grow. I’ve tried to be respectful and discreet by growing only two of the four I’m allowed, keeping them small and tucking them away behind my other plants, including potted sunflowers and mint.

I’ve conformed to the Cannabis Act by buying the seeds legally from Tweed.

I realize now (much too late), after growing them from seed and enjoying their company for weeks, that if I leave them on my balcony, I’m technically breaking the law because they’re visible to my neighbours and their “invited guests” on private common property.

I admit to being naïve for not reading every bit of info I could find about laws specific to my home province. The laws are new.

That all said, had I been investigated by police for my plants, I would have appreciate some understanding and a warning — rather than having my place searched and potentially facing a $5,000 fine and three months in jail.

I’ve since given Betty and Boop to a new home because I can’t stomach the thought of being prosecuted for growing cannabis while trying to follow the law.

How it happened

The way the Revelstoke raid went down surprised and angered many.

An off-duty constable attended a local food bank fundraiser on July 28: the annual Revelstoke Garden and Art Tour. Minten had offered her home as part of the tour. While on her property with one of his family members, the police officer noticed the couple’s three plants, which didn’t sit well with him.

A few days later, police executed a search warrant on the home while the couple was out at dinner.

“Why they didn’t just come to tell us we had crossed a line of the new laws and to be more cautious, I don’t know,” says Minten.

“I do not break the law, I stop at every stop sign, and breath a zero for every breathalyzer.

“I’m struggling mentally knowing my house had uniformed unwelcome strangers going through my private space. I feel violated, heartbroken and deeply disappointed with our local RCMP.”

She says her actions were based on believing it’s legal to grow up to four plants — they had three — and sharing their growth with the curious.

“Praying the RCMP just apologize for their actions and we can all move on knowing that these new laws are not as pretty as they may seem,” she says.

Sticking to their guns

Publicly, police have been unapologetic in the face of overwhelming criticism. They issued a strongly worded statement, saying participants of the garden tour were exposed to “blatant violations” of Section 56 (g) of the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act.

RCMP say they say they seized cannabis plants and other items to support charges. The file remains under investigation.

“Unfortunately, the violations of CCLA by some of our residents has brought some negative light to Revelstoke and the Garden and Art tour,” says Cpl. Mike Esson of the Revelstoke detachment.

Police are expected to release another statement on the raid this week.

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About the Author

David Wylie is publisher of the oz. — a cannabis newsletter that covers the growing legal weed industry from the Okanagan Valley.

He has been a journalist for nearly two decades, working in newsrooms all over Canada.  

David is active as okanaganz on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Reddit. Subscribe to the email newsletter at okanaganz.com.

An ounce of info goes a long way.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.