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Marine Drive pot shop ordered shuttered

Complaints prompt District of North Vancouver to ask court for injunction
store closure

A marijuana shop that opened its doors illegally in the District of North Vancouver last fall has been forced to close its doors after the municipality took the case to B.C. Supreme Court.

A judge issued an injunction at the end of May ordering the pot shop run by the Green Tree Dispensary Society to shutter its storefront at 1370 Marine Dr. and pay back the district $4,000 in legal costs.

The pot shop, which opened its doors last fall, is the first attempt by a marijuana shop to open up in the municipality since council put the kibosh on a pot shop in Deep Cove several years ago.

The storefront opened under the name Green Tree Medical Dispensary in rented space in September of last year.

Soon after, the pot shop was advertising its wares like a “Babba Kush” Indica strain on Facebook with the description “Great for crushing stress while coercing happy thoughts into the brain for a great good mood feeling. 22 % THC ... .”

Marijuana dispensaries are banned in the municipality and Green Tree did not apply for a business licence, said chief bylaw officer Carol Walker.

But district staff were soon hearing about the storefront from neighbouring business owners including a lymphedema clinic and a local chiropractor, who reported “marijuana smoking and other undesirable activities by customers” outside the store.

Business owners told bylaw officers they had tried complaining to Randall Gordon Leong, director of Tai Sing Properties Ltd., the company which owns the building, but got nowhere.

When bylaw officers visited the storefront in the fall they found products on display included “dried marijuana, rolling papers, glass pipes, marijuana candy and baked goods and marijuana oils.”

Bylaw officers told store staff the pot shop wasn’t allowed under local zoning bylaws and ordered it to close, but the store stayed open.

Leong was also unco-operative when contacted by district staff, according to court documents, telling them the tenant signed a three-year lease and was paying $3,300 a month (or $23 per square foot) in rent.

Leong told bylaw officers the owner of the store operates 30 retail pot shops across B.C. and Ontario. According to court documents before he signed the lease he visited another store that the owner was involved in in the City of North Vancouver and found it “tidy and well run.”

Leong also told bylaw officers since the federal government will soon be making marijuana legal he wasn’t going to take any further action against his tenant.

The municipality filed a lawsuit in November against the Green Tree Dispensary Society and Justin Liu of West Vancouver, one of the directors at the time, who Leong had described as the owner of the store, asking for an injunction as the pot shop was violating local bylaws.

Shortly before the judge issued a ruling in the case on May 23, the store was still advertising itself to customers on Facebook, telling them to “Come by and check out our grinders, bongs, pipes and more over the long weekend!”

By May 23, however, the pot shop had been ordered closed.

It isn’t the first time the Green Tree Dispensary Society has run afoul of local authorities. Pot shops have been closed after fights with municipalities and the RCMP in both Langford and Ottawa.

Marijuana storefronts in the City of North Vancouver have also been operating in a legal grey area. Last month, city council revealed it had opted to deny business licences to two pot shops.

Walker said neighbouring businesses on Marine Drive are pleased that the marijuana dispensary has been closed, adding the municipality will continue to take action against pot shops that open illegally.

“The district is closely following the announcements of the government of Canada. As with all changing federal and provincial laws, the district will evaluate these changes and consider the implications for district bylaws,” she said.

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