The message is clear. Cease operations or face arrest.
After months of sitting on the sidelines while the City of Penticton struggled to license marijuana dispensaries within city limits, the local RCMP detachment has stepped in and ordered three operating pot shops shut down.
The move comes a little more than three months after the city granted two of those shops, Green Essence and Okanagan Cannabinoid Therapy, temporary use permits.
A third shop, Herbal Green Apothecary, which has remained open against the the city’s wishes was also ordered closed.
In a trio of letters sent to the shops this week, acting officer in charge of the Penticton RCMP Staff Sgt. Kirsten Marshall provided a “warning in regards to the possible ramifications of certain business practices that do not comply with the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.”
Castanet News was shown the letter sent to Herbal Green Apothecary by the shop's owner, Jukka Laurio, who says he will be complying with the order.
“If this is being done to all of us, then it's the end of the game,” adding that fighting with the city over it's bylaws and with the RCMP are two very different things. “I’m not going to argue with the federal government.
“I don’t think the people in the city are going to be too pleased with the whole thing, all it really does is drive the market out into the street,” Laurio said. “They can either have it here in a controlled location or have a couple hundred people selling it out of their homes.”
Okanagan Cannabinoid Therapy declined to comment and a sign is now up on Green Essence's door, announcing their closure.
It’s not clear what caused the change of heart for the Penticton RCMP, which has been hands-off while the city spent a considerable amount of time and effort licensing two of the shops after multiple sprung up in the city, unchallenged by police.
In a statement, Staff Sgt. Kirsten Marshall confirmed all three dispensaries in Penticton received the letters.
“The RCMP is responsible for enforcing Canadian laws, as they stand today. Our communities expect that we will take enforcement action to meet this responsibility, and do so in an impartial and professional manner.”
When questioned about the sudden change of enforcement, Marshall stated that the RCMP has “nothing to do with the City licensing or permits, that is a separate process.”
“Nothing has changed, trafficking in marijuana remains illegal at this time. If we have concerns expressed by the public in regards to criminal action we have the ability to investigate and, if appropriate, take enforcement action,” Marshall continued in an email.
Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit was caught completely off-guard by the news.
“Marijuana dispensaries have been in the spotlight not only in Penticton but elsewhere, and to date the RCMP have not provided enforcement,” Jakubeit said in an email. “The City created and allowed two (six month) Temporary Use Permits to enable access to medical marijuana and to weed out the growing proliferation of dispensaries in the City.
“The enforcement of the law is the jurisdiction of the RCMP and we will have to see what course of action they take next,” he added.
with files from Dustin Godfrey
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