RCMP, community safety teams raid 4 cannabis shops in K’ómoks First Nation

Click to play video: 'RCMP raid 4 Vancouver Island cannabis shops'
RCMP raid 4 Vancouver Island cannabis shops
RCMP and community safety unit officers raided four cannabis stores on Wednesday, located on K'ómoks First Nation land on Vancouver Island. – Feb 15, 2024

Vancouver Island Mounties and members of a B.C. government cannabis enforcement team raided four cannabis dispensaries on K’ómoks First Nation land Wednesday.

Locations include the Cedar Bark Dispensary, The Buddery House, 3420 and The Butterfly Effect.

It was not immediately clear why the shops were visited and their products seized.

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Uber Eats offering cannabis delivery in B.C.

Cameron Francis of the Cedar Bark Dispensary told Global News that RCMP officers showed up “unannounced, uninvited” and without a warrant.

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“They also decided to hire a locksmith to come pick our locks. I’m not sure how they got away with that, but here they are, they’re in,” he said in an interview.

“As if we didn’t have enough to deal with. It’s getting kind of ridiculous, to the point now where we can’t even operate on our own lands without being harassed. It’s just wild to me.”

Footage shot for Global News shows officers dressed in plain clothes, apart from bulletproof vests, visiting the dispensaries.

In one scene, shot at 3420, the officers can be seen speaking with a shop staffer next to an open-doored Comox Valley Locksmith truck.

“This isn’t the first time they’ve showed up to bully us, to harass us to kind of follow their orders. However we know our rights, we know what we stand for,” Francis said.

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“This is unceded land. We never surrendered this land so they have no right to be here. This is out of their jurisdiction.”

He said all the product at Cedar Bark Dispensary has been boxed up and taken, but he doesn’t know where.

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First Nation opening Canada’s first ‘farm-gate’ cannabis operation

Global News has reached out to K’ómoks First Nation for comment.

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While RCMP were present at each raid, the province’s Community Safety Unit is leading the file.

That unit, operating under the Policing and Security Branch of the Ministry of Public Safety, is responsible for compliance and enforcement under the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act (CCLA). According to the B.C. government website, its focus is the illegal sale and production of cannabis.

In an emailed statement, the Ministry of Public Safety confirmed its Community Safety Unit made enforcement rounds on Wednesday, but said it couldn’t specify where or why.

“The CCLA is a law of general application that applies across B.C., including on lands governed by First Nations,” it wrote.

“All along, the aim has been to achieve voluntary compliance; however, we have been very clear that CSU will employ a progressive enforcement approach against those who continue to operate without a licence. Escalation of enforcement action is determined on a case-by-case basis and considers factors such as public safety, the integrity of the legal market, and partner and community concerns.”

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Robert Laurie of Ad Lucien Law Corporation, which represents The Buddery House, said the raid was a “surprise.” He had just emailed a Community Safety Unit representative on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of meeting with his clients to discuss “issues and concerns” and “Section 119,” he added.

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Section 119 of B.C.’s Cannabis Control and Licensing Act states that the minister can enter into an agreement with an Indigenous nation relating to the sale of cannabis, subject to the requirements in other provisions of the act.

Laurie said Wednesday’s operation was carried out with a “notice of administrative monetary penalty” that would most likely be double the dollar value of the cannabis seized.

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More support for Indigenous cannabis entrepreneurs in B.C.

“These clients, along with a number of other groups in British Columbia, are of the mind that they shouldn’t even be dealing with the provincial government when it comes to issues of cannabis and other traditional ceremonial plant medicines and fungi,” he explained.

“So today really was an instance of, perhaps an abuse of process or action in bad faith, because it now puts these clients in a position where their only action now is to challenge the government in the courts, as opposed to figuring out ways to amicably dealing with the issue.”

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Laurie confirmed that K’ómoks First Nation’s chief and council did not invite the Community Safety Unit on Wednesday.

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