Province seeks to seize $15M in property allegedly tied to unlicensed DTES dispensary

Click to play video: 'B.C. government goes after pot shop owners’ properties'
B.C. government goes after pot shop owners’ properties
The B.C. government has filed a civil forfeiture claim against the owners of a former Downtown Eastside pot shop, going after $15 million worth of properties. Emad Agahi reports – Sep 19, 2022

The British Columbia government is seeking to seize property worth millions of dollars from a couple it says operated an illegal cannabis dispensary on the Downtown Eastside for 12 years.

The civil suit, filed Sept. 14 by B.C.’s director of civil forfeiture, claims Shannon and David Bauman, operating as the Real Compassion Society, acquired 11 B.C. properties worth nearly $15 million using the proceeds of crime.

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The suit alleges the dispensary at 151 East Hastings St., known as the Blue Door, operated as “an unlicensed storefront … for the purpose of illegal or unauthorized cultivation, production, marketing, possession, possession for the purpose of sale, distribution and sale of cannabis and/or illicit cannabis,” that “would likely result in the direct or indirect receipt of a material benefit, including financial benefit.”

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It alleges the couple illegally possessed and sold cannabis, failed to declare taxable income and possessed and used a forged document.

“The real property and money are proceeds and instruments of unlawful activity,” it claims.

“By converting the proceeds of the unlawful activity into the real property and money, the real property and money were used by the defendants as instruments of unlawful activity, namely, laundering the proceeds of crime.”

The suit names Shannon Bauman as the current director of the society, which has been in operation since 2010. David Bauman served as a previous director, it alleges. Neither of them has been criminally charged.

Global News was unable to contact the Baumans by phone, by Facebook, or in person at the society’s registered address.

According to a petition launched this spring, the Blue Door functioned as one of the city’s “longest held compassion clubs,” providing low-cost cannabis to vulnerable people “for health-related reasons such as cancer, sleep aid and pain management.”

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The Blue Door was shut down in February 2022, following a raid by Vancouver police, supported by the provincial Community Safety Unit which targets unlicensed cannabis operations.

According to the civil suit, police seized an estimated 226 kilograms (500 pounds) of dried cannabis in ziplock bags, along with $48,227.91 in cash.

The money was stored in several cash registers, along with five 20-litre buckets and a plastic milk crate.

“The money was bundled or packaged in a manner not consistent with standard banking practices,” the suit claims.

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“Cash only” signs were posted in the storefront, and police observed two ATMs and a Bitcoin machine, the suit further alleges.

The suit details a string of previous police interactions with the dispensary, including an instance in 2013 where they allegedly discovered falsified Health Canada paperwork and one in 2014 where they allegedly seized a taser.

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The suit alleges the couple began acquiring the Lower Mainland properties, with the collective assessed at a value of $14.7 million, in one or both of their names starting in 2015.

Shannon Bauman became the registered owner of the 151 East Hastings St. property in March, 2016, it claims. The same day, she became registered owner of 141 East Hastings St., the current home of the Overdose Prevention Society, it alleges.

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A number of the properties referenced in the suit are in the City of Vancouver and Chilliwack, along with a West Vancouver home at 1151 Millstream Rd. with the assessed value of $4.11 million.

The suit is seeking for the properties and cash to be turned over to the government, along with any interest, profits or rent they generated.

B.C. instituted its Civil Forfeiture Act in 2006, with the aim of targeting organized crime and drug trafficking, and allows the province to use the court system to seize the profits of alleged unlawful activity.

Critics have questioned the legislation, arguing it unfairly puts the onus on the accused to prove their innocence, and allows a lower standard of evidence than would be accepted in criminal trials.

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