Cannabis shop on Osoyoos Indian Band land destroyed in “suspicious” fire

A cannabis dispensary just outside Oliver, BC on Osoyoos Indian Band land was destroyed by a fire early this morning.

The Oliver Fire Department say they responded to a fire coming from a trailer and business at the location of The Pot Doctor at 8141 Highway 97. The fire is currently considered suspicious and will be under investigation.

According to a Facebook post from the Oliver FD, quick action from firefighters on the scene stopped the fire from spreading in the business while work was made to extinguish the trailer. Crews remained on scene for approximately two hours and the RCMP was dispatched to the location.

The Pot Doctor first opened in its current location in 2020 before being forced to close and come into adherence with the Osoyoos Indian Band’s (OIB) cannabis bylaw. The store then reopened with the Band’s blessing in January 2021. 

Previously, it had been operating in Penticton but was forced to close for selling cannabis without a licence, precipitating its move to OIB land where it operates along with two other cannabis store locations, both of which are listed as “temporarily closed” according to Google. 

A representative with the Osoyoos Indian Band said the band cannot provide any comment on the fire as the business was located on reserve land owned by a band member with a Certificate of Possession and was not under the direct control of the Osoyoos Indian Band

British Columbia maintains that all cannabis stores in the province are subject to provincial cannabis regulations as laws of general application, but the province has been hesitant to enforce those laws on businesses operating on First Nations land. 

Image via Facebook

Although some First Nations communities have long been home to cannabis shops, this disconnect in enforcement has led to a significant increase in the amount of pot shops on First Nations land in the past few years. 

A group of BC cannabis retailers who is calling for the resignation of the province’s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth for mismanagement of the cannabis file published a map last year of the numerous unlicensed cannabis stores operating in BC, many on First Nations land. 

“Through the OIB program, we just have a little more leniency as to where we can acquire our products from,” the owner of the Pot Doctor, Christopher Dawe, told a reporter with Castanet in 2021. “So, through the government program, you can only acquire your products from a government LP, which is a legal provider. Through the Indigenous cannabis bylaw act, I’m able to acquire my products through any of the previously legislated cannabis enrolment programs.” 

Recently, the owner of a cannabis store on First Nations cannabis retailer told StratCann and several other media sources that her community has been flooded with outsiders taking advantage of that lax enforcement.

The owner of High Status Cannabis and a member of the Splatsin First Nation shared her concerns with local media about a number of cannabis stores opening in her community that she says have no ties to the local community. 

No additional information on the fire was available at press time.

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