Police outside the Hammond Compassion Society. (Phil Melnychuk – THE NEWS)

Update: Provincial police raid Hammond pot store

Compassion society on Maple Crescent opened in 2015.

The cannabis store operated by the Hammond Compassion Society on Maple Crescent was raided Wednesday by provincial inspection officers.

The Hammond Compassion Society, a non-profit society also known as Deacon Blues, opened the store in 2015 to provide medicinal marijuana.

Ridge Meadows RCMP Const. Julie Klaussner confirmed that a provincial inspection team (Community Safety Unit) acted on the Hammond Compassion Society, not the local detachment.

“This is not us, it is the Provincial Inspection Team.”

Maple Ridge Coun. Gordy Robson confirmed that the action wasn’t directed by the city.

And he wonders why the government is raiding unlicensed stores without approving more applications for licensed cannabis stores.

He noted there are 12 applications awaiting a decision in Maple Ridge, with two of those being for provincial stores.

Read more: Council OKs first step for second Maple Ridge pot store

“Approve them and then do it. What they’re doing is taking away the supply to everybody in Maple Ridge,” Robson said.

He’d like to see about five cannabis stores in Maple Ridge.

The province had considered a cannabis store in the 207th Street area of Maple Ridge.

“Only the provincial government could figure how to lose money selling pot,” Robson added.

The city has approved the locations of several store applications and referred them to the provincial government for review.

Council recently told the Haney Hotel to apply for a text amendment to the zoning bylaw as part of the process of seeking a cannabis store in that location.

Read more: Medical pot in Hammond

Legalization took place across Canada in October 2018, but only one store so far has been licensed and opened in Maple Ridge.

The Community Safety Unit, a division of the Public Safety Ministry, works with police to shut down unlicensed sellers that still hold the vast majority of the B.C. cannabis market.

Its raids included the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club, which operated for more than 20 years as a medical dispensary.

Read more: Mike Farnworth’s special police unit takes down dispensaries

“We’ve had a good response,” said Mike Farnworth, public safety minister and solicitor general at the end of October.

“At last count, there have been 50-some-odd illegal operations that have either shut down voluntarily or have had their product and the cash confiscated by the Community Safety Unit.”

To date, safety unit officers have visited over 220 unlicensed retailers for the purposes of education and to raise awareness about cannabis laws, the penalties and consequences for violating federal and provincial regulatory regimes, added Hope Latham of the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General.

Information was also shared on how to obtain a non-medical cannabis retail license and the enforcement activities of the safety unit.

“The CSU has undertaken enforcement action against unlicensed retailers in several communities across B.C.,” he added.

“In all cases, significant amounts of cannabis in a variety of forms [dried, edibles, concentrates, extracts, oils] have been seized.

“Our goal, from the start, has been voluntary compliance. However, those who continue to operate illegally should be warned that, if they do not obtain a provincial licence, they will have to close or will face increased enforcement action from the CSU.”

Read more: One store in Maple Ridge remains for pot puffers

Maple Ridge, in 2018, passed a bylaw prohibiting cannabis sales as an interim step while the process of legalizing non-medicinal marijuana began.

No one from the society has yet been available for comment, nor the city.

The Hammond Compassion Society also had applied to the Liquor and Cannabis Distribution Branch for a licence to sell recreational pot.

Brett Steeves, society manager, said last year that 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.

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.

However, there’s a backlog of applications, leading to delays in new licences being issued.

Maple Ridge Mayor Mike Morden said there’s a provincial process to follow in order to get approval for a cannabis store, while municipal business licensing is also required.

“Council’s expectation is that Deacon Blues follow the legal, regulatory requirements,” Morden said Wednesday.

That day’s raid came the day before B.C. residents can purchase cannabis edibles, extracts and topicals – legal in Canada since Oct. 17.

Read more: New city bylaw prohibits all pot sales

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Police outside the Hammond Compassion Society. (Phil Melnychuk – THE NEWS)

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