'Bring it on': pop-up cannabis vendors defy Vancouver police crackdown

Cannabis vendors have returned to Robson Square despite a police raid Sunday night that resulted in arrests and the seizure of products.

Officers say they will keep up their efforts against the vendors

The vendors at Robson Square have been selling dried and edible cannabis illegally. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Cannabis vendors in Vancouver have returned to Robson Square despite a police raid Sunday night that resulted in arrests and the seizure of their products. 

"Bring it on," says vendor Colton Mulvale, who was selling dried marijuana under a pop-up tent Tuesday afternoon. 

Mulvale and a small group of self-proclaimed cannabis activists say they will continue to openly sell dried and edible cannabis products despite the risk of arrest.

Colton Mulvale (centre) sells cannabis at Robson Square. He says he'll continue to defy orders from police to stop. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

They say they're helping those who need cannabis by providing affordable dried marijuana and by selling edible cannabis, which isn't available in the city's licensed dispensaries.

The vendors set up shop barely two hours after Vancouver police held a media conference to outline the steps they are taking against the vendors. 

Cannabis vendor Perri Deman says he will keep on selling marijuana at Robson Square despite the risk of arrest. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Stepping up enforcement

Deputy Chief Const. Howard Chow with Vancouver police said officers have arrested four people on 11 charges of drug possession and trafficking, and they have plans to arrest a fifth person.

"It's evolved significantly over the last number of months. This has required us to step up enforcement," Chow said.

"What we were starting to see was a larger quantity being sold, reports of hard drugs being offered such as cocaine, reports of marijuana being offered to teenagers."

Chow said officers seized:

  • More than nine pounds of dried marijuana.
  • 23 pounds of edible cannabis.
  • More than $4,000 in cash.
  • A baseball bat, pipe and baton.
  • Used drug paraphernalia including scales, bongs, and grinders.
Vancouver police say they seized several pounds of dried and edible cannabis from the vendors at Robson Square. (VPD)

Officers have been monitoring the situation at Robson Square for several weeks under what Chow called "Project Apprentice."

Police say the four vendors who were arrested have been released under the condition not to be found back in the 800-block of Robson Street, but police added that one person was arrested yesterday for breaching the conditions.

Chow warned that undercover police officers are regularly patrolling the area.

"For any of the traffickers, your next sale may be to a police officer," he said. "We're going to sustain the [police] activity on this."

'The craft market of B.C.'

Anne Genovy was also at Robson Square alongside the vendors Tuesday afternoon. 

Genovy said the vendors are helping those who need medical marijuana and providing an alternative to the products that are available through dispensaries.

"It's the craft market of B.C. We're showing the public that there's also alternatives to buying from a [licensed provider] or a dispensary," she said. 

Anne Genovy says the vendors at Robson Square are a "craft market" for cannabis. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

The vendors at Robson Square are "saving lives," according ot Genovy, by providing edible marijuana not available elsewhere, and by selling their products at cheaper rates — they say they're only charging $5 per gram, as opposed to the $12 per gram available in dispensaries.

Marijuana legalization isn't set to arrive in Canada until July 1, but in 2015 Vancouver became the first city in Canada to regulate and licence dispensaries. The stores pay the city up to $30,000 for the privilege to sell pot.

Vancouver Coun. Melissa DeGenova told CBC last week that she's heard from licensed vendors who say the stalls at Robson Square aren't fair to those who have paid for the licence. 

Cannabis vendors at Robson Square set up shop shortly after a Vancouver police media conference outlining arrests and seizures of marijuana. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

About the Author

Maryse Zeidler

@MaryseZeidler

Maryse Zeidler is a reporter for CBC News in Vancouver, covering news from across British Columbia. You can reach her at maryse.zeidler@cbc.ca.