Former marijuana shop owner facing hefty fines

The owner of a marijuana shop which operated without a licence for three years in the City of North Vancouver is facing some potentially hefty fines after pleading guilty Monday to a number of municipal bylaw offences.

North Vancouver’s Kevin Anderson ran the Herban Art Collective, a marijuana store that operated out of an art gallery for three years on East Esplanade Street.

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While up to half a dozen pot shops operated for several years in the city, most opted to close their doors prior to the legalization of cannabis on Oct. 17, 2018.

Herban was the only shop operating in the city when recreational marijuana use became legal last October.

But the shop was operating without a business licence, which had been denied by the municipality.

On Monday, just as a five-day trial was set to begin in North Vancouver provincial court, Anderson pleaded guilty to over 40 bylaw offences. The charges include operating Herban without a business licence and using the premises for a use not permitted by the zoning bylaw on numerous days between Sept. 14 and Nov. 21, 2018.

Prosecutors acting for the city told the judge they are seeking a fine in the range of $250,000.

Sentencing in the case has been adjourned until later this month.

Outside the court, Anderson said the reason his store stayed open last fall was to provide cannabis for medicinal marijuana users in North Vancouver, after other marijuana shops shut down.

“We were trying to help people out,” he said. “That was our primary focus.”

Herban eventually closed at the beginning of December after losing a court fight to get an extension on the store’s lease with the landlord, said Anderson.

He said one reason he didn’t apply for a provincial licence to sell marijuana legally is, “It seems incredibly difficult to get that licence,” noting the City of North Vancouver has so far only endorsed a licence for one store in the Lower Lonsdale area run by the owners of Sailor Hagar’s at 221 West First St.

“The amount of investment that it takes to get a property, get a landlord that’s onboard, and hold it for how long – almost a year now ... I don’t have that kind of money to hold a property for a year,” he said.

Anderson – who represented himself in court Monday – said he’s hoping to speak to a lawyer before the sentencing date.

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