Judge upholds eviction of DTES cannabis dispensary

| Staff

The landlord of a building used by a Vancouver organization that helps supply cannabis to residents in the city’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood was recently granted an eviction by the BC Supreme Court.

Last week the Healing Wave at 157 E Cordova St was given until 5pm on Friday, October 30, 2020 to vacate the building they had been operating out of, distributing cannabis to residents of the DTES. 

Healing Wave is run by Vancouver cannabis advocate and activist Neil Magnuson and is part of the Cannabis Substitution Project/Serious Hope Society, whose goal is to provide safer alternatives to harder, more dangerous drugs that are prevalent in the city, especially in Vancouver’s DTES neighbourhood. 

The landlord terminated the organization’s lease earlier this year, effective August 31, following a change to provincial cannabis regulations that included new penalties for landlords of unlicensed cannabis retailers, as well as a letter from the city saying the Healing Wave was not licensed to distribute cannabis. 

The process was challenged in court, and saw the support of Vancouver city councillor Rebecca Bligh as well as several public health professionals, but the Judge sided with the landlord. 

Magnuson, who runs Healing Wave says they had the support of their landlord, who he says was forced by the city to give the eviction notice. Currently, his hope is to shift the operation to an RV that he plans to park near on Cordova St while they seek a new storefront to operate out of. 

Although the city has said they support low barrier access to cannabis products, they have maintained the issue is outside their jurisdiction, pointing to provincial and federal rules around cannabis sales and distribution. In addition, Magnuson says the city’s own fees for cannabis retailers serve as a major barrier. 

“Thirty thousand dollars is so discriminatory, so I don’t like the city’s policy on cannabis dispensaries at all,” says Magnuson. “Really, we need to have a whole bunch of access points for high dose edibles for people in all the different neighbourhoods of this city to combat this opioid crisis. They need to allow that.”