One of Vancouver Island’s most popular chain dispensaries, Trees, will close all stores on the Island following two consecutive shutdowns of stores in Victoria.
Trees CEO Alex Robb previously stated stores in Nanaimo would remain open until August 16 as part of a “slow winding down” of operations. After Community Safety Unit (CSU) officers seized product at Trees’ Yates street store in Victoria, the company decided it would be best to close all locations as soon as possible to avoid further seizures.
“Unfortunately, because we are concerned the CSU would seize any product we sent to Nanaimo, we are not going to be continuing operations there until we’re licensed,” Robb said.
CSU officers seized a large quantity of cannabis products from both Victoria locations. While the exact figures have yet to be determined, Robb expects the CSU could fine Trees hundreds-of-thousands of dollars based on the estimated value of seized product. The CSU has power to fine companies double the assessed value of unlicensed cannabis products. Any fines levied are at the discretion of the CSU.
“This is not about Trees in terms of enforcement, it was about their timeline for the transition to the licensed market place,” Robb said. “It was important for them to ensure that there are not unlicensed competitors to existing licensed stores.”
Nanaimo does not have any licensed stores at this time, and there are no stores scheduled to open until at least September.
The immediate closures will not impact the ability of Trees employees to enrole in employment insurance and a supplemental benefit program that will top up missed wages. All employees will receive severance, and employees who have worked for three months or longer are eligible for the supplemental benefits program. The program will provide workers with up to 90 percent missed wages for a period of four weeks.
“We had initially hoped we could do that for longer for the purpose of bringing them back once we reopen as a licensed store, but at this point we cannot be sure we’re going to be licensed within four weeks, so we are advising people to look for other employment,” Robb said.
Trees will maintain a skeleton crew to wind down operations, and proceed with their licensing application. Stores in Nanaimo are expected to close whenever product has been cleared from the shelves. It is likely that Friday, August 2 will be the last day of operations for Trees locations in Nanaimo.
Robb expects that many customers will continue showing up to Trees as the abrupt closures have not allowed Trees to effectively communicate with their customers. This may take users by surprise, and leave users of medicinal products without any access to medicinal cannabis products, many of which are not available on the legal cannabis market.
“I’m most of all apologetic to the medical users because, if I had calculated better, then we would have ensured they had adequate time to access the products they need. They’re the most hard done by people, and they’re also the ones I’m most sorry to for not being able to get them the product they needed,” Robb said.