Indigenous cannabis shop that was focus of Vernon raids sues the province

Pot shop sues province

The owner of an Indigenous-owned cannabis shop in Vernon that was the focus of enforcement raids in 2020 is suing the provincial government.

In a petition to BC Supreme Court made in Vancouver May 2, Cory Patrick Brewer, president of the Syilx Cannabis Society and owner of Tupa's Joint states claim against the BC Community Safety Unit for what the petition claims are unconstitutional provisions of the Cannabis Control & Licensing Act under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The petition says the "impugned provisions" infringe aboriginal and treaty rights as well as the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure.

It states provincial and federal laws are "ultra vires" or beyond their powers in relation to First Nations medical cannabis dispensaries.

The downtown Vernon shop Tupa's Joint was the subject of a Safety Unit inspection in May 2020 and enforcement seizure in June that year of cannabis product worth more than $10,000.

Brewer claims government has failed to work with First Nations so that Indigenous laws can exist alongside federal, provincial regulations.

The petition says the "current legal framework ignores First Nation and Indigenous peoples' jurisdiction" over use of cannabis, stating hemp has been a traditional medicine since before colonization.

Tupa's Joint is described in the court documents as "a unique Indigenous healing retail business."

The petition acknowledges that Tupa's sold cannabis products with strengths above government limits and in larger quantities than provincial rules.

It claims that Canadian legalization has negatively impacted First Nations, and the "restrictive nature of regulations has posed a barrier to First Nations' economic success."

Brewer claims the education inspection was "used as a pretext" for the following enforcement.

The petition seeks a declaration that provincial and federal laws are of no force in regard to First Nations cannabis use and sale, that they infringe the charter, and also seeks court costs as well as unspecified damages.

"As far as I'm concerned, we're not doing anything wrong within our territory," Brewer told Indiginews in 2020.

The province has 21 days to respond to the petition.

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