Provincial pot police dish out huge fines to illegal cannabis stores
The provincial government has collected almost $1.3 million in penalties from illegal pot shops after dishing out fines often in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The provincially run cannabis enforcement agency, the Community Safety Unit, reports it has collected $1.29 million in penalties since July 2019.
The department has seized almost $25 million in cannabis from the illegal market and issued 39 Notices of Administrative Monetary Penalty.
And the fines Notices of Administrative Monetary Penalty that have been made public, shows fines ranging from $12,000 to $770,000.
Provincial law states cannabis stores found to be operating without a licence will be fined twice the retail value of the cannabis in the store. However, if a store owner agrees to sign a waiver, the fine is reduced to the retail value of the cannabis.
In January, the Victoria store Trees of Eden Island Grown signed a concession order agreeing to pay a fine of $771,557.
Other businesses have also signed concession orders waving their right to a hearing but paying a potentially lower fine.
Back in the summer, the 99 North Enterprises in Squamish agreed to pay a fine of $444,027 and the owner of The Herb Co. in Vancouver recently agreed to pay a fine of $156,784.
In all three cases, the store owners sold or possessed cannabis for the purpose of sale without a non-medical retail store license.
The Kamloops store which has been known under the names Da Kine Weed Glass and Gift, Weeds Glass and Gifts and Weeds and Boomer’s Bud agreed to pay $65,716 for selling cannabis without a licence between July 31 and Sept. 4, 2019.
While the province says it has issued 39 Notices of Administrative Monetary Penalty only five had been made public after the store owners signed concession orders.
It's also estimated around 50 illegal cannabis exist around the province mainly on First Nations land.
The province wouldn't say what the status of the other 34 Notices of Administrative Monetary Penalty was. Some may be contesting the fines and going to a hearing but those details haven't been made public. The results of the hearing will also not be made public.
A recent survey from the Okanagan Cannabis Collective found that 90 per cent of retailers surveyed reported that they have seen no enforcement action against illegal cannabis stores.
As the province has said it has seized almost $25 million in cannabis from the illegal market and collected $1.29 million in fines, the numbers would suggest there is at least $23 million in fines outstanding to the government, although some of those fined could be contesting the penalties.
–– This story was corrected at 3:25 p.m. Monday, Dec. 6, 2021, to say the Community Safety Unit had collected $1.29 million in fines since July 2019, not since legalization.
To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.
We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above.