With the City of Vancouver looking at new rules to regulate the booming retail marijuana business, one of the hurdles some pot shops will face is police background checks of their operators.
CBC decided to do its own background checks and quickly found some local operators have had serious run-ins with the law, including instances not involving the marijuana business. In one case, two of the operators of the Sea to Sky Alternative Healing Society — well aware their police involvement could back to haunt them — have removed themselves as directors of the pot dispensary at least on paper.
They say they welcome Vancouver's move toward regulation of the city's 80-plus pot dispensaries.
"It's one more step towards legitimacy," says Nebard Jehanger.
Until last week, both Jehanger and his business partner Fahir Suleyman were listed as directors of Sea to Sky. They've both had run-ins with the law.
Suleyman was charged in 2009 in Halifax with possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking. He jumped bail and fled to B.C., where he was picked up, convicted and sentenced in 2012 to 174 days in jail.
Jehanger was in Richmond provincial court on Tuesday and faces charged with possession of over three kilograms of cannabis for the purpose of trafficking.
Jehanger cut off the interview with CBC saying, "Well I'm not really comfortable talking about that at the moment. I didn't know this was going to be an interview like this, you know?"
Both the men are no longer listed as directors for the pot dispensary out of concern that their police involvement might be an impediment to getting a license.
"Since hearing about the [possible] new regulations, I want to make sure it [the dispensary] is secure," Suleyman says.
'People make mistakes'
A director of Karuna Health Foundation, another medical marijuana dispensary, also has a criminal past.
Sacha Canow has been convicted of charges including possession of a narcotic, theft and failing to appear in court for cases going back to the late 1990s.
Canow says his criminal past stems from problems he had as a teenager, and it shouldn't mean he can't operate a pot dispensary.
"People make mistakes, so I think its hard to discriminate against that," Canow says.
"People change. It seems a bit unfair. If it's somebody who's more recent or active in their criminal activity, then yeah, that has merit for sure."
Last week, the city said it would start regulating the 80 dispensaries selling marijuana that have popped up in recent years because the federal government has left a legal vacuum.
Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose quickly condemned the idea, saying the dispensaries are illegal and should just be shut down.