As the Liberal government prepares to legalize marijuana, one Vancouver entrepreneur says he has no alternative but to close two of his pot shops.
Today (January 26), Weeds Glass and Gifts Ltd. shut down its storefront operation at 1952 West 4th Avenue.
Owner-operator Don Briere told the Straight by phone that he did this because the city is fining him $1,000 per day. The fines have been imposed because this Weeds store is not in compliance with the city's marijuana-dispensary bylaw.
He also said that he's going to close another store at 1232 Burrard Street by the end of January because the building's strata council won't allow it to remain.
"It hurts me every time I have to lay somebody off because they want to work," Briere told the Georgia Straight by phone.
Weeds still operates marijuana stores on West Broadway, Main Street, Richards Street, Victoria Drive, and in Victoria.
"We were at 137 staff," Briere added. "I think we're down to 102. They all pay income tax. They're good people."
He pointed out that his company remits corporate taxes, provincial sales taxes, and the GST to the federal and provincial governments.
At the end of November, Vancouver city council voted to quadruple fines for unlicensed dispensaries from $250 per day to $1,000 per day. This came after many unlicensed dispensaries remained open after a bylaw took effect last April.
Briere said that because his business at 1232 Burrard is unlicensed, the strata council was going to fine the owner of space $1,000 per week if Weeds didn't shut its doors.
"We have an eviction notice for the 31st of this month," he revealed. "We're going to close because we respect the owner. He's a nice guy and he doesn't want us to leave."
In the meantime, Weeds Gift and Glass is proceeding with a constitutional challenge against the city, arguing that its bylaw infringes on people's charter right to reasonable access to medical marijuana.
"If you're in a wheelchair, like one of the people who comes to see us all the time, it's very, very difficult to get on a bus or take a cab somewhere to get cannabis," Briere maintained. "So reasonable access is really an important thing."
He also stated that the Vancouver Board of Variance has dismissed his appeal to keep his store open at 4914 Victoria Drive.
Briere pointed out that there are no other dispensaries in the immediate vicinity, so he claimed that closing this outlet would also deprive some residents of "reasonable access" to medical marijuana.