New Westminster’s only pot dispensary ordered to shut down

Cornelia Taylor - New West Record

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Customers are concerned about the closure of a newly opened marijuana dispensary in New Westminster this week.

The Natural Green Remedies Shop opened its doors at 808 20th Street sometime before Oct. 17, but city officials have already ordered its operators to shut it down.

Customer Jeremy Andrews, who struggles with anxiety and depression but doesn’t like taking pharmaceuticals, told the Record he was happy a shop had opened in the neighbourhood, saving him and others a trip to Vancouver.

“No matter where you go in the Lower Mainland, there is a need for it,” he said. “A lot of people don’t like taking the narcotics that doctors prescribe. It’s another option.”

And with changes coming to Canada’s cannabis laws, Andrews is surprised at the city’s hardline approach.

“With it possibly being legalized next year, you would think the local police department would be a little bit more lenient on it, considering it’s medicine,” he said.

New West’s licensing manager, however, said marijuana dispensaries are still not permitted to operate in the city at this time.

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“The city is aware the issue of marijuana dispensaries has been discussed in other jurisdictions, and the City of New Westminster has been consistent in our approach,” wrote Kim Deighton in an email. “While the federal government has released information regarding a proposed Cannabis Act targeted for enactment in July 2018, details about the new system and, specifically, how the retail aspect will be implemented in each province have yet to be determined.”

Deighton said the city became aware of the Natural Green Remedies Shop on Oct. 17, and fire, building and bylaw officials attended the shop on Oct. 19 to conduct an inspection.

Officials then advised the proprietors they were in violation of city bylaws, including but not limited to operating without a business licence and operating contrary to zoning.

“Operators were advised they must cease business operations immediately,” Deighton said. “(City) staff continued to attend daily and issue tickets for bylaw violations. Police were also advised.”

New Westminster police attended the shop Tuesday and executed a search warrant, according to Sgt. Jeff Scott, but no arrests were made at that time.

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While the city waits for further announcements and information on the new cannabis laws from the feds, Deighton said city staff will present council with a report about “various options and implications with respect to land use and planning.”

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