Marijuana dispensary still planning to open in Prince George despite closure by RCMP
WeeMedical has moved into several B.C. cities, sometimes over the objections of local government
Although the mayor and RCMP have said marijuana retailers in Prince George will be treated as illegal businesses until new federal laws come into place, a pot dispensary hopes to start selling to customers in northern B.C. soon.
WeeMedical opened a 'Wellness Centre' in downtown Prince George on February 3.
It was closed three days later when RCMP and city officials found they were operating without a business licence and had illegal drugs on the premises.
Manager James Brown acknowledges it was a rocky start, but believes the time is still right for the venture.
"Prince George and the surrounding area needs a dispensary," he said shortly after the shutdown.
Brown said he's now applying for a business licence to reopen as a site to sell cannabis paraphernalia and related products, but ultimately he wants to sell medical marijuana to people with legal prescriptions.
To do this, he plans to connect with local advocates to petition city hall to begin regulating pot dispensaries using zoning rules ands and business licences, a model pioneered by Vancouver and Victoria.
This is Brown's first venture into marijuana retail, but WeeMedical already has several locations in B.C., with mixed levels of cooperation from local government.
The municipality of North Delta denied WeeMedical's application for a business licence multiple times, and won a court case preventing it from operating.
In response, the store shut down and reopened under a different name.
In Chilliwack, a Weemedical Wellness Centre was operating with a licence to sell marijuana accessories but, as reported by the Chilliwack Progress, the licence was revoked after council received complaints that cannabis was being sold as well.
When asked about retailing marijuana when it is still against the law, Brown said the laws themselves are the problem.
"You cannot get a business licence because there's none," he said.
"So either you have to come in and try to do a soft approach, trying to work with the council, work with the community, or a dozen of us come in here and just open up."
Brown said he's convinced people opposed to marijuana of its medical benefits before, including his own mother.
"My mom has Crohn's [disease]," he said. "She was really against cannabis, for years. And I just educated her: I bought her books, I showed her videos... and now she sleeps properly. She's fully functioning."
He said he'll take the same approach with Prince George city council, researching statistics from communities that allow dispensaries in an attempt to prove they can have a positive effect on crime and other problems.
"Let a few [dispensaries] in and see how it goes from there," he said.
For more stories from northern British Columbia, follow CBC Daybreak North on Faceboook.