The New Westminster Police Department has shut down a dispensary that quietly opened its doors earlier this month.
On October 16, Natural Green Remedies announced a "grand opening" on its Instagram page and began selling cannabis and cannabis-related products out of a storefront at 808 20th Street.
The New Westminster Record reported yesterday that the city was first notified of the shop the next day. Officials visited a few days later, on October 19, and told operators to "cease operations immediately", according to New Westminster licensing manager Kim Deighton in the Record.
The Straight scoped out the new store on October 21 and learned that it was operated by WeeMedical Dispensary Society. Though the entity doesn't run any shops in Vancouver, it operates nine different dispensaries and so-called "wellness centres" in British Columbia, including two in Nanaimo and one in North Vancouver.
According to its website, WeeMedical "carries a wide selection of premium medicinal marijuana products including medical marijuana, edibles, pipes and vaporizers from licensed growers".
By the Record's report, bylaw officials issued daily tickets to operators until the New Westminster police attended the dispensary on Tuesday (October 24). No arrests were made, but the Straight confirmed today that Natural Green Remedies is no longer serving customers.
Others who have attempted to open dispensaries in New Westminster have had a similar fate. The Royal City Wellness Centre opened on Front Street in 2016. A note from an operator of that dispensary on Leafly claims that city staff in New Westminster had no interest in facilitating the licensing of dispensaries: "Due to municipal enforcement/harassment we are temporarily closed until we can find a new way to service our clients. The city of New West has made it very clear that they do not want any sort of medical marijuana dispensaries in their community and do not care for the patients that live within their boundaries."
Another shop, New Innovations in Cannabis Education (NICE), was opened by the West Coast Green Light organization on 12th Street in 2012. It was investigated by New West police for one year before it was raided.
Licensing manager Deighton told the Straight by phone on October 27 that without knowing what the provincial framework for the retail sale of cannabis looks like, the municipality is limited in what it can do when dispensaries decide to open up shop in town.
She said that, like other municipalities, New Westminster is awaiting the provincial plans as well as responses from an online public survey before creating its own system.
"Once those results come out, then local government will have a better understanding of what the parameters are," she said.
Deighton also said that despite being in a tough position, the city has been "consistent in its approach" to cannabis dispensaries in the city.
"Right now it’s still considered an illegal activity, and in New Westminster all businesses must comply with municipal, provincial, and federal laws, so it’s not possible to issue a business licence," she said.
"That’s a pretty clear position, and it’s been New Westminster’s position the entire time."