City sues dispensary owner

The City of Penticton is turning to the courts to shut down an unlicensed marijuana dispensary that claims to already be closed.

The City has been fighting a long-running battle with Jukka Laurio, the owner of Herbal Green Apothecary on Westminster Avenue, since it opened in 2015.

In a petition filed Monday in B.C. Supreme Court, the city asks the courts to order the closure of the shop and enforce a ban on Laurio possessing or selling marijuana within the City of Penticton.

“I’m packing up, selling off the assets, told the landlord I’m giving up the building, I’m trying to shut it down. I want to close down and go away,” Laurio said Tuesday, admitting he opened recently for one day on April 20 “for a political statement.”

The City points to Laurio’s lack of a valid business license, which was suspended in March, as its main legal argument. The City has likely been emboldened by a B.C. Supreme Court ruling out of Abbotsford in February, which found municipalities have the right to regulate marijuana dispensaries.

Laurio announced he would be closing the shop after he, along with the other two licensed dispensaries, received letters from the RCMP threatening arrest.

“If they are going to sit there and annoy me, I’ll open back up again, because I can run this through the courts until legalization. I don't have a problem with that,” he said.

Laurio blasted the City for “focusing on one shop that is trying to close down” while failing to plan for full legalization next year. Despite a temporary-use permit from the City of Penticton, Laurio says at the end of the day, the other two dispensaries operating in the city are doing so illegally.

In a statement, the city said those six-month temporary-use permits would be up for re-evaluation by council in June.

“This business  has been repeatedly fined for operating without a temporary use permit and the City is now moving on to the next step in enforcement which is injunctive action,” Director of Development Services, Anthony Haddad said.

The City is also looking to recoup legal costs through the court action.


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