Indigenous owner of unlicenced Vernon pot shop refuses to close after province seized $10K of cannabis | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Indigenous owner of unlicenced Vernon pot shop refuses to close after province seized $10K of cannabis

Image Credit: FACEBOOK:Tupa's Joint
June 12, 2020 - 6:00 PM

With no provincial permit or business licence from the city, Cory Brewer's downtown Vernon cannabis store lasted just over two weeks before provincial authorities seized $10,000 of product and ordered him to close.

Two days later, the store is stocked once again and open for business.

"We're not looking to shut down or stop doing what we are doing," Brewer told iNFOnews.ca. "I'm not doing anything illegal here."

Tupa's Joint cannabis store opened quietly May 23 on a side street in downtown Vernon. The 28 Avenue store received a visit from the provincial Community Safety Unit, tasked with policing cannabis regulations, on June 10 when they seized his product. Brewer said he was surprised they didn't come sooner.

While the city's eight other cannabis stores went through the arduous and expensive process of getting a provincial licence before opening, Tupa's Joint didn't.

"UNDRIP (the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) gives us the right to continue business off reserve within our territory," Brewer said. "Indigenous people have the inherent right of self-determination."

Brewer's argument, which he says is backed by the United Nations legislation, is that he is exercising his sovereignty to operate a business on his traditional territory. He points out the Okanagan Nation's landmass stretches almost to Alberta and across the border into the U.S.

Reopening the cannabis dispensary may be making a bold political statement but Brewer says he isn't looking to pick a battle with the province.

"I'm not looking to fight, I'm looking for solutions for us to be able to work together going forward," he said. "There's enough fighting going on."

Brewer said First Nations were left out of the conversation when the cannabis law was developed.

"I'm working to make sure that First Nations are involved in any further discussions," he said. "I've left the door wide open for everyone to come together and develop it properly so that it works for us."

Lengthy wait times has meant provincially-licenced cannabis stores have been few and far between in Vernon up until the last few months. The Okanagan Indian Band has, on the other hand, flourished with stores on what has become known as "The Green Mile."

Brewer owns Timixw Wellness, and has two stores on the reserve, opening both earlier this year. He believes he may now have the first non-provincially licenced cannabis store on non-band land in the province or maybe even the country.

While he's bracing himself for a $20,000 fine – the province charges twice the value of the product confiscated as punishment – he's steadfast in his legal authority to keep his downtown store open.

"We've done our homework and we're no worried," he says.

He says he'll appeal any fine he receives.

Again he reiterates this ain't about picking a fight with the province, and it's not a protest.

"We've been left out long enough," he said. "I'm working to make sure that First Nations are involved in any further discussions."


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.

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