‘Going soft’ not the answer, says ex-RCMP cannabis retailer

Published on October 22, 2021 by David Wylie

Cannabis buds in glass

A retired RCMP officer and his wife, who run a mom-and-pop cannabis shop in BC, say the province isn’t doing anybody any favours by avoiding enforcement on unlicensed shops.

Cannabis store owner and retired RCMP officer Chris Nuessler sent an open letter this week to BC’s Premier and the Solicitor General.

He’s the second Okanagan retailer to go on the record about a lack of enforcement against unlicensed cannabis stores. Chris and his wife Elaine are the owners of PH Cannabis Co, a recreational cannabis shop in Summerland.

  • RELATED: Cannabis retailers call for BC Solicitor General’s resignation

Spiritleaf Vernon owner Sarah Ballantyne signed a letter last week from a group of Okanagan cannabis retailers, calling for the resignation of the province’s Solicitor General over his handling of the cannabis file. (The story was first reported by the oz.)

In their letter, Chris and Elaine communicated their own challenges opening and operating a legal licensed cannabis store, including with banking and licensing.

Reconciliation vs. Enforcement

The letter, which you can read in full here, addresses the elephant in the room: Reconciliation vs. Enforcement.

“We also feel strongly your need to immediately address the illegal black market industry on Indigenous lands,” says the letter.

“No matter your comments on the issue of reconciliation, going soft on enforcement is not supporting reconciliation. This is illegal activity in BC that needs to be immediately addressed. Let’s make one thing clear… we support reconciliation. We suggest you work closely with these communities to establish their own legal cannabis industry and bring the credible Indigenous stores on board with licensing while funnelling future tax dollars immediately back into their community. That is Reconciliation.”

Jars of marijuana strains in an unlicensed dispensary

In response to the response

The BC government sent a statement to the oz. about the initial letter from the Okanagan collective.

In an email to the oz., a spokesman with the Ministry of Public Safety and the Solicitor General says respect for local Indigenous community interests must be taken into consideration. And that it’s trying to balance reconciliation and enforcement.

“The province is committed to reconciliation, building positive relationships with Indigenous governments, understanding where they have different perspectives, and, where possible, collaborating to find resolution. These efforts are balanced against the need to ensure that the legal and regulatory framework for cannabis is implemented across the Province and in alignment with federal laws.”

In reply, the Okanagan Cannabis Collective quickly sent out a second letter requesting an in-person meeting within two weeks.

“It is clear by the media comments, that your Minister is providing direction to the CSU and other law enforcement agencies that is contrary, and thereby in itself illegal, to the CCLA and Cannabis Act.”

“While we fully support reconciliation efforts, there are no specific provisions within either aforementioned legislation that permit enforcement discretion of this nature. Previous statements from your government have indicated that the provincial cannabis retail licence applies on reserve and treaty settlement lands and provided direction that illegal retailers that do not obtain a provincial licence will have to close.”

The collective is asking that if the Community Safety Unit won’t enforce, that the province give more equal treatment to legal cannabis retailers by doing the following five thing immediately:

  • eliminate the requirement for legal retailers to remit PST
  • eliminate the 15% wholesale markup on cannabis products from the BCLDB
  • eliminate the annual cannabis retail licensing fee
  • freeze the issuance of new cannabis licenses
  • eliminate 20% vape tax