Police pay rare visit to cannabis shop on Indigenous land

Published on October 24, 2022 by Penticton Herald

By Joe Fries

Investigators tasked with helping regulate the sale of cannabis in BC paid a visit this week to a dispensary located on the Osoyoos Indian Reserve, but it’s still unclear why that outlet—one of more than a dozen currently operating on First Nations land in the South Okanagan—was targeted.

Oliver RCMP Sgt. Don Wrigglesworth confirmed officers from his detachment were called out around 10 a.m. Wednesday to The TPD Boutique on the 8100 block of Highway 97 to assist the Community Safety Unit’s probe into an “unlicensed business.”

“The RCMP were present to ensure the safety of those investigators to carry out their duties” under the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act, said Wrigglesworth in an email.

Wrigglesworth referred requests for more detailed comment to the Ministry of Public Safety and Attorney General, which oversees the CSU.

The CSU confirmed in a statement Friday they “were active” in Oliver on Oct. 19.

“We’re unable to comment on any specific enforcement actions that the CSU will or will not undertake in response to specific cases or situations,” the statement read.

“CSU is aware of operators throughout the province and encourages everyone to obtain a provincial licence to participate in B.C.’s legal cannabis industry. Unlicensed can­nabis operators can expect CSU to explain the risks of remaining outside of the legal regime, the benefits of licensing, and procedures to obtain a provincial license.”

‘The fact is that we’re a licensed business’

A person who answered the phone Thurs­day at The TPD Boutique declined to elaborate on the nature of the CSU’s visit.

“The fact is that we’re a licensed business and we have full support from (Osoyoos Indian Band) chief and council,” said the person, who wouldn’t provide a name.

The OIB didn’t respond to a request for comment.

OIB chief and council in early 2020 passed a bylaw that regulates the sale of cannabis on its lands.

In 2021, The TPD Boutique became the third dispensary to be permitted under that scheme. In February 2022, the shop was damaged by an arson attack, but reopened soon after.

Cannabis retailers argue shops are unfair

Cannabis shops on Indigenous land operate outside the provincial legislation under which such businesses are regulated on non-Indigenous lands. That has led some First Nations, such as OIB, to create their own regulatory schemes that reflect their right to self-government and self-determination.

However, retailers licensed by the BC government have long complained they face unfair competition from shops on Indigenous lands, which generally have less strenuous licensing requirements and costs.

The matter came to a head in April, when a group of licensed retailers filed a lawsuit against the B.C. government, the CSU and others to spark action.