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Penticton  

Pot shop moves to OK Falls

An unlicensed marijuana dispensary in Penticton is ending its long-running fight with the city and moving south to Okanagan Falls.

Herbal Green Apothecary owner Jukka Laurio has purchased a retail location at 936 Main St. in Okanagan Falls, and will be closing his dispensary business on Westminster Ave. in Penticton on Jan. 20.

Laurio said he was unwilling to sign a wellness centre agreement with the City of Penticton that would have legally barred him from selling cannabis. Two other dispensaries in Penticton signed agreements with the city after council killed its pot shop licensing program.

“So I’m moving everything to OK Falls, including myself,” Laurio said. “There is no city council there to argue with over issues. It’s a much more relaxed atmosphere there anyways.”

“Penticton has a strong anti-marijuana lobby to struggle with… whereas OK Falls, you don’t really have that many” against marijuana, he added.

Laurio likened running a dispensary these days to a political statement, or civil disobedience, to simply prove it can be done in a safe manner.

He said he expects to save a “considerable” amount of money operating out of Okanagan Falls, and expects most of his customers to follow him.

“They go there for chicken and ice cream, they’ll go there for their medical marijuana.”

While the City of Penticton fought Laurio since he opened by issuing fines and launching lawsuits, the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen has no authority over the new dispensary.

Development Services Manager Brad Dollevoet says the shop fits the property’s current zoning.

“Its a retail establishment, as defined within our zoning bylaw… a retail use is allowed within that zone,” he said, noting they don’t have the ability to grant business licenses.

He said he wasn't sure how many other unlicensed dispensaries are operating under RDOS jurisdiction.

Enforcement is left up to the RCMP. 

Detachment Commander of Penticton South Okanagan Similkameen regional detachment Supt. Ted De Jager said in an email the dispensary "could be the subject of enforcement under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act."

"The Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations offers no mechanism to sell or distribute marijuana or any derivative from a store front and as such, this business plan is in contravention of current legislation," he added.

– with files from Colton Davies 

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