Green Era Medicinal on Fraser Street, is also closed temporarily. (Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS)

One store in Maple Ridge remains for pot puffers

Two other medical dispensaries not supplying

People looking for their usual bit of ganja will have to chill for a bit, because Maple Ridge’s pot supply is in transition.

The sign on the door of Green Era Medicinal on Fraser Street says the store is closed, temporarily, though no date for re-opening is known.

At The Always Growing Green Society TAGGS building, a block away on 224th Street, members are no longer being provided medicinal marijuana. Instead, they’re being referred to other suppliers, said an employee. That practice began Oct. 17, the day recreational marijuana became legal across Canada.

A note on the door of the Lotusland Compassion Club, on Dewdney Trunk Road at 224th Street, says that the store is closed “until licensing is established with the City of Maple Ridge.”

Meanwhile, the Hammond Compassion Society, on Maple Crescent, is open as usual, and awaiting word on whether it will be granted a licence by the Liquor and Cannabis Distribution Branch to sell recreational pot.

Manager Brett Steeves said he doesn’t plan on closing for an extended period while he awaits a licence. Instead, once he receives word he’s about to be approved, he’ll close his shop, move out all of the medicinal pot, then move in all of the government-supplied product.

“We’re the only store left open between Vancouver and Abbotsford. Nobody wants us to close our doors,” said Steeves.

He said there’s no requirement to close for an extended time before moving from an unlicenced medicinal marijuana dispensary to a licenced, retail outlet for recreational marijuana.

He doesn’t believe staying open will jeopardize his chances of getting a licence. Anyone seeking to open a recreation retail pot store has to apply to the Liquor and Cannabis Distribution Branch, which then forwards the application to the local city council. A city council has to explicitly approve an application before a retail licence is granted.

“The whole objective of the exercise here is … you’re just driving it all back to the black market if everybody closes their doors.”

Steeves doesn’t know when or if he’ll receive a retail licence. A store operated by the province in Maple Ridge is also possible, he added.

“We’ll just have to see how it all plays out. There’s no guarantee that anybody’s going to get a licence, in any community, if the council doesn’t like the venue or the location of the venue.”

However, with municipal elections now done, he expects licences starting to be issued in December.

Maple Ridge’s outgoing council gave final reading to a zoning bylaw change as one of its last steps at its Oct. 16 meeting.

The bylaw allows recreational pot stores in commercial zones, provided there is a kilometre distance between each one and provided they be at least 200 kilometres from schools.

Tony Le, with Green Era Medicinal, a downtown store that was raided in June by RCMP and bylaws, said earlier that he intends on applying.

Bylaws staff earlier told council that three applications to open retail recreational marijuana stores in Maple Ridge have been received, but those applications also need provincial approval.

Steeves said that according to Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, a total of 144 stores in B.C. have applied to the province for retail licences, while a total of 85 applications have been referred to local government for approval.

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Brett Steeves, with Hammond Compassion Society, intends to keep his store open until he receives a licence. (THE NEWS/files)

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