A popular unlicensed cannabis retailer on Vancouver Island was shut down by the province Wednesday morning.
Trees Island Grown on Alpha Street has closed, and according to CEO Alex Robb, the rest of the stores will soon follow.
The Public Safety and Solicitor General’s Community Safety Unit (CSU)– in charge of reinforcing the province’s cannabis laws – recently ramped up “education and enforcement.”
The CSU wouldn’t comment on its role in shutting down the local retailer, but Robb said the province has clearly arrived at the enforcement stage.
“They’ve previously been in the education phase of their enforcement strategy, which was to notify stores about how to get licensed…they are now moving toward active enforcement,” Robb said. “I believe they targeted the Alpha Street store because I think that it’s probably the busiest unlicensed store in the province. This was them indicating to the wider province that if you’re operating unlicensed, you are now subject to enforcement.”
The Victoria Police Department was on scene to assist the CSU, but there were no arrests or charges laid. All cannabis products were confiscated.
Robb said the other Trees locations – both in Victoria and Nanaimo – will remain open until Aug. 16.
“Because we don’t want to, in any way, jeopardize our ongoing license applications, we have made the decision today to suspend operations…” he said, adding that the two-week period is intended to give staff proper notice and allow customers the time they need to stock up, particularly on products not yet available in the licensed market.
“A number of our customers are medical customers that require access to cannabis for medical purposes and [use] products that are not currently available in the licensed stores,” Robb said. “And we do want to make sure that people are going to have access to and be able to stock up on these items, which may not be available for another year or two years.”
Robb said more than 150 employees will be impacted by the closures.
The company has been working to obtain a license for some time – Robb said they have been moving through the process of security screening and financial integrity screening with the province, and if approved, the application will be forwarded to the city for approval. He doesn’t anticipate licensing until October or November.
“We were planning to suspend operations, it was a surprise that this enforcement action happened today and now we’re changing our plans to suspend operations sooner,” he said. “We now have to be making sure we have a business to return to once we are licensed, and that means that unfortunately we’re no longer able to serve the communities that we have been.”
|Trees Island Grown on Alpha Street was closed Wednesday morning. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)