British Columbia’s cannabis enforcement agency has conducted 412 site visits and issued 33 monetary penalties against unlicensed cannabis retailers since the province began enforcement of their regulations in July of 2019.
The province recently listed just four of those 33 fines as having been concluded, worth nearly $1.3 million dollars. Three of those four listed have also now transitioned into the legal market.
The administrative penalties came from four different unlicensed cannabis stores: a Kamloops dispensary that operated under the names Da Kine Weed Glass and Gift, Weeds Glass and Gifts, Weeds, and Boomer’s Bud ($65,716.24), a Squamish dispensary called 99 North Enterprises ($444,027.49), and two Victoria dispensaries, one called Ocean Grown Medicinal Society ($12,042.00) and the other Trees of Eden Island Grown ($771,557.50).
The recent announcement from the provincial government aligns with a previous update from the province in June of this year, in which the province said 25 such fines had been issued so far. At the time the province said the BC Community Safety Unit (CSU)— the agency that oversees BC’s retail cannabis regime—has undertaken 67 inspections that resulted in the seizure of $13.4 million worth of cannabis. As a potential explanation for why more of these have not yet been paid, BC Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth explained that these administrative penalties are subject to a hearing.
The BC Community Safety Unit (CSU), under the Policing and Security Branch of the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, is responsible for compliance and enforcement under the provincial Cannabis Control and Licensing Act (CCLA), with a focus on the illegal sale of cannabis. CSU investigators can carry out compliance and enforcement activities against unlicensed cannabis retailers and other illegal sellers across the province.
The province has taken a slow approach to enforcement, in many cases focussing first on educating retailers and property owners of any compliance issues before moving to issuing fines, raids, or shutting down unlicensed businesses.
Under BC’s Cannabis Control and Licensing Act there are three types of orders issued by the Director of the Community Safety Unit (CSU) with respect to the issuance of administrative monetary penalties (AMPs); Concession Orders, Compliance Orders and Reconsideration Orders.
If the Director proposes to impose a monetary penalty for a contravention of the CCLA, the Director must serve the person with a NAMP. Unless the person signs a waiver and admits to the contravention (Concession Order), the monetary penalty (AMP) is an amount equal to two times the retail value of the cannabis that the person, in contravention of the Act, sold, possessed for the purpose of sale, or produced. If they do sign the waiver (Compliance Order), their penalty is equal to the retail value of the cannabis sold, possessed or produced.
If a person applies for a reconsideration of a provincial Compliance Order and the application is accepted, a Reconsideration Order is issued by the Director. A Reconsideration Order confirms, varies or rescinds the Compliance Order.
All four fines listed by the province are under Concession Orders. All four listed owners/persons signed a waiver admitting to selling cannabis in contravention of provincial cannabis regulations and giving up their opportunity for an administrative hearing in respect to the NAMP.
Earlier this year, BC said there were around 50-75 illegal retailers currently operating in the province, although this number was disputed by Greg Kyllo, the MLA for Shuswap, a region with numerous unlicensed cannabis retailers, especially on First Nations land. The BC government said at the time that they had undertaken 67 inspections, resulting in the seizure of $13.4 million worth of cannabis.
BC currently lists 369 legal cannabis stores as open, 342 of them privately owned and 27 run by the province as a BC Cannabis Store. As of this summer, the CSU has moved from what the province describes as an education-based approach—that is, coming in and informing illegal retailers of BC regulations and the possible penalties for non-compliance—to more active enforcement such as issuing fines and seizing products.