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Former North Van pot shop owner fined $252K for illegal cannabis store

The Herban Art Collective continued to operate in the City of North Vancouver without provincial and municipal licences until 2019, advertising cannabis products as 'organic' and 'craft'
marijuana jars
Jars of marijuana strains being sold at Herban Art Collective in North Vancouver.

The former owner of an illegal marijuana shop, which operated without a licence for over three years in the City of North Vancouver, has been slapped with the maximum fine of $252,000 after pleading guilty to 21 counts of municipal bylaw offences.

Kevin Anderson of North Vancouver pleaded guilty in September and November of 2020 to numerous bylaw offences of operating a business without a licence and using a premise for a purpose not permitted under city bylaws.

In sentencing Anderson this week, provincial court Judge Joanne Challenger said the hefty fine was warranted because of Anderson’s blatant and ongoing disregard for the law, and to show others tempted to consider fines “the cost of doing business” that “they will face a penalty which will eliminate any profit motive.”

Anderson ran the Herban Art Collective, a marijuana store that operated out of an art gallery for three years on East Esplanade Street in North Vancouver prior to regulated marijuana sales becoming legal on Oct. 17 2018. He then ran the business out of a second location on the same street until December 2019.

While up to half a dozen unlicensed pot shops operated for several years in the city, all except Herban eventually closed their doors prior to the legalization of cannabis, in order to be considered for a provincial licence.

Anderson, however, refused to shut his shop despite numerous warnings and tickets issued by the city beginning in 2016 and municipal bylaw charges that were eventually sworn, noted Challenger.

Herban continued to operate until Anderson’s landlord at the first location on Esplanade terminated his lease in October 2018. Anderson fought that decision in court and lost, but immediately reopened his pot shop at a nearby location, Challenger noted. The landlord of that shop also ended Herban’s lease in 2019, after a search warrant was executed on the store.

While in business, Anderson advertised his marijuana products as “organic” and “craft” on Instagram, Facebook and a website said Challenger. The Instagram account for the Herban Art Collective also contained links to what appeared to be a marijuana delivery service called World Wide Weed, she said.

The photo of a McLaren luxury car posted on the Herban Instagram account in 2016 raises suspicion that Anderson had profited from his business, said Challenger, although she added it can’t be considered proof of that.

She also pointed to comments Anderson made to the North Shore News after other illegal pot shops were forced to close in North Vancouver that business had been “brisk.”

The judge noted Anderson’s lawyer argued his client had been operating in the manner of a “compassion club” rather than for profit, that “any profits were donated to charity,” and that Anderson had no money to pay any fines.

She added however that no letters from any “patients” of the “dispensary” were provided and no evidence about Anderson’s financial status was put forward.

Challenger ordered that Anderson pay the fine to the City of North Vancouver. She also banned Anderson from working in or being involved in any unlicensed pot shop for a year.