“We still have fight left in us”: Vernon cannabis shop forced to close - InfoNews

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“We still have fight left in us”: Vernon cannabis shop forced to close

FILE PHOTO: Hasia Glaim at the MMJ Total Health Centre downtown Vernon.
June 13, 2018 - 6:30 PM

VERNON - One of Vernon’s first cannabis shops is closing its doors at the end of the week to avoid stiff fines from the City.

Hasia Glaim and Jeff Gaudette of MMJ Total Health Care revealed themselves as one of four businesses that did not sign restrictive covenants with the City of Vernon. Without the covenant, the shops are liable to receive $1,000 fines every day they are out of compliance.

“We can’t afford $1,000 a day in fines,” Gaudette says. “We are saving our money and putting it towards legal fees.”

He says the store, which opened in 2014, will shut its doors at the end of the day on Friday, June 15, cutting off access to their roughly 4,500 patients.

“We contacted our patients and we told them to order up right now because we’re unsure of the future of our store,” Gaudette says. “Our patients are very panicked.”

He says the covenant gives the City too much power over businesses.

“Two of our lawyers have told us it’s unconstitutional. It’s a way for the City to get control over these stores,” Gaudette says.

In a release, the City says all cannabis retailers in operation prior to Nov. 14, 2017 were given the opportunity to apply for a temporary use permit and business license provided they registered a covenant on their property agreeing to close if zoning did not support cannabis retail sales at that location. That would allow them to keep operating until marijuana is legalized and related provincial and municipal regulations are adopted.

“Given concerns that existing cannabis retailers may be able to argue “grandfathered” status if they are allowed to remain open as the legislation is passed, many communities are closing the shops altogether. (Vernon) Council’s approach ensures that participating cannabis retailers in Vernon have an opportunity to remain open, and that council will ultimately have control over where in Vernon the shops are permitted to operate long term,” the city says in the release.

While 13 businesses signed the covenants, four did not. Three have agreed to close or discontinue sales altogether — including MMJ Total Health — and the fourth, an online delivery-only retailer, has not agreed and is subject to enforcement proceedings, the city says.

Gaudette and Glaim say they’re all for legalization of marijuana and a regulated industry, however they feel the covenant goes too far by giving the City the power to close all shops down the line. 

“Property owners are now required to place a restrictive covenant on the land title causing both property and business owners have many unnecessary concerns,” Glaim says. “Landlords fear that a restrictive covenant upon the title shall cause the property to lose value and are demanding that in order to place the covenant on title, such existing tenants must purchase the property with extortion-like conditions attached while time is of the essence and zoning is unpredictable causing dire straits and making it an impossible situation for the dispensary operator.”

In their case, they say their landlord was fearful of the impact a restrictive covenant would have on his property and instead asked that MMJTHC purchase the building by June 18 at what they say was a grossly inflated price. 

Gaudette and Glaim also fear that the medical side of the industry will be lost with the recreational legalization of cannabis and patients will suffer the fallout.

“We carried a wide range of CBD oils that won’t be available in the recreational marketplace,” Gaudette says.

MMJ Total Health is hosting a peaceful protest Monday at 10 a.m. starting at their store on 31 Street and ending on the steps of City Hall.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston 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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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2018
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