British Columbia

Unlicensed pot shop opens — and closes — in downtown Prince George

Canna Clinic opened shop in downtown Prince George without a business licence.

Mayor says Canna Clinic didn't contact city prior to opening

Canna Clinic has locations around Toronto, Vancouver and B.C.'s southern interior. Prince George is the first community in northern B.C. to have a dispensary. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

An unlicensed medical marijuana dispensary has opened and promptly closed in downtown Prince George.

Mayor Lyn Hall says he was not aware Canna Clinic was operating in the city's industrial section downtown.

"My first reaction is surprise that there's an operation like that in Prince George," he said when contacted by CBC about the business.

"Of course you hear about the various operations throughout the province, throughout the country and now that we have one here in Prince George in our backyard, it's something we have to deal with."

According to its Facebook page, Canna Clinic opened at 729 Fourth Ave. in late January.

Canna Clinic opened in the industrial section of downtown Prince George in January. (Canna Clinic Vancouver Facebook)

When the business was contacted by phone the morning of Feb. 3, an employee said it was open.

Later the same day, the door to the building was locked and a person inside said they were not going to be open again for some time due to "problems."

Prince George RCMP superintendent Warren Brown said police are looking into the legitimacy of the business but from initial investigations it appears to be illegal.

"I would agree that the place has 'run into some issues' and it is now indeed closed," he said.

No one associated with Canna Clinic has agreed to an interview.

An online reviews page indicates the business had been selling to customers.

Canna Clinic bills itself as a medical marijuana dispensary with locations throughout Vancouver and Toronto, as well as Vernon and Nelson, B.C.

Legal grey area

Hall said dealing with marijuana shops would be something for RCMP to take the lead on.

"It's my understanding that these are not legal entities to be operational so ... it would be more of a police matter than bylaw services," he said.

The city of Edmonton expecting 200 applications for a development permit to sell cannabis. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Communities across Canada have struggled with the proliferation of marijuana-based businesses ahead of the federal government tabling any laws about legalizing and regulating the drug.

In Vancouver, officials have turned to bylaws and business licences to regulate the industry, handing out fines to those who don't comply.

Nelson is considering its own pot shop rules in the absence of federal guidelines, while Prince Rupert city council has explicitly banned all non-medical marijuana operations until at least 2018.

In 2015, the City of Prince George amended zoning bylaws to limit medical marijuana operations to industrial areas.

However, Hall said this wasn't an invitation for shops to open — it was trying to be prepared for whenever the federal government does legalize marijuana, as promised by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

He also said that the owners of the business had not received a business licence or worked with the city in any way prior to opening.

"We'd like to know if you're going to come into our community," he said.

"We're in uncharted territory."

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