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Vancouver cannabis store owner concerned for staff safety after attempted robbery

Click to play video: 'Attempted robbery at Vancouver pot shop'
Attempted robbery at Vancouver pot shop
Cannabis retailers feeling vulnerable after a man wielding a gun bursts into a Vancouver pot shop attempting to rob the store. Aaron McArthur reports – Mar 15, 2023

The owner of an East Vancouver cannabis store says he’s concerned for the safety of his staff after a man armed with a gun tried to rob his store Monday night.

This is the first time Kingsway Cannabis has been hit by an attempted robbery, according to the store’s owner Charles Variboff.

“When someone has a gun that is really scary, you have no idea if it is a real gun or a replica or a starter pistol or a bb gun,” Variboff told Global News.

Luckily, no one was injured and the suspect left empty-handed but Variboff is worried this might happen again.

The store’s windows are covered by opaque film with no way to see in or out and Variboff says his staff are left feeling vulnerable to robberies.

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“the last thing you want to do is wake up in the morning and go to work and think you are going to end up hurt, or worse, end up in a body bag,” Variboff said.

When cannabis was first legalized in B.C. it was a requirement to block the view of any products or sales from outside but that requirement was dropped in 2020, at least in the province, after steady pushback from the industry.

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“Especially when there’s such a rise in violence around here a couple of years ago, there was a murder close by at Tatlow Park. And with the constant things happening at cannabis stores around the city we want to be able to protect our employees,” according to Kayley Nelson, General Manager of Evergreen Cannabis.

However, it is still a federal requirement to block the sight of products in pot shops to protect children.

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“For some reason Health Canada doesn’t like the idea of children being able to see cannabis products but there’s a lot of other things going on. Like there’s constant advertisements for gambling, for drinking. And although we don’t want young kids consuming cannabis, I think there’s a lot worse things for kids to be able to see,” Nelson added.

“Our owner has been really passionate about safety and just not agreeing with what Health Canada thinks is the best in terms of the safety issues. Because, the city was really lobbying for no window coverings in the beginning. And Health Canada just completely wrote that off,” Nelson explained.

“We have thought about revisiting our current window coverings, but I know the Cannabis Act was up for review this year and we didn’t want to do anything to quickly.”

Vancouver Police are investigating the attempted robbery, telling Global News anytime a lethal weapon is used is concerning.

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