Leaf Compassion’s Regional Manager Justin Gurinskas stands out front of the store location in Chemainus that was raided by RCMP on Friday. / MIKE GREGORY/LADYSMITH CHRONICLE
A Chemainus dispensary reopened less than 48 hours after North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP raided three cannabis retailers in North Cowichan late Friday morning.
Officers entered Leaf Compassion and Green Aura in Chemainus with a warrant at around 11 p.m. on Friday and were still on scene in the early hours of the evening.
“They went ahead and arrested all of our staff that were on site and began their search and seizure,” said Leaf Compassion’s regional manager Justin Gurinskas outside the store just minutes after owner Kyle Cheyne was arrested and taken into custody.
Green Tea Medical Dispensary, located in Duncan but part of the North Cowichan municipality, was also raided on Thursday.
But that didn’t stop Cheyne, who also has Leaf Compassion locations across the island, including Victoria and Port Alberni, from reopening in Chemainus on Sunday morning.
“We’ll literally keep fighting this until it goes to the Supreme Court of Canada,” he said. “We have too many people, especially seniors, who are pushing us for the access to feel better.”
Cheyne requires medical marijuana due to cysts he developed first as a child.
Both Green Aura and Leaf Compassion have been fined $200 twice by the Municipality of the North Cowichan in recent months for not holding a business licence.
North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure said it can take significant staff time and resources to be able to issue a ticket.
“To serve a ticket we have to find the owner of the business,” said Lefebure, noting that the RCMP’s actions are separate from those of the municipality.
“Serving a ticket is not necessarily easy and takes time and energy…so that is a restriction on the ability of our bylaw officers.”
The store front operations at dispensaries are also not licenced by Health Canada.
According to the RCMP, investigators gathered evidence of possible offences under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
“The RCMP is guided by the current legislation and the laws as they exist in Canada. While there may be pending changes in the legislation, until such time as this legislation has been passed and new laws enacted, the RCMP will enforce the laws of Canada as they exist today says Insp. Ray Carfantan, officer in charge of North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP.
“The North Cowichan/Duncan Detachment engages in ongoing consultation with the community to ensure that the priorities of the community are reflected in the policing priorities for the Detachment. Our community priorities are in alignment with the priorities for both Canada and the Province of British Columbia.”
In total, at least four staff from Leaf Compassion as well as the co-owners of Green Aura, Cody Aginas and Trevor Pewarchuk, were arrested and have charges pending.
Aginas said all of the cannabis was seized from their store, as well as a computer and other hemp products.
“We do have plans to reopen in the very short term. It won’t be myself but there will be representatives of Green Aura,” Aginas said. “We were there to help people and the municipality is being unjust to not offer this help and support to their community.”
The investigation remains ongoing and “marijuana, marijuana derivatives and evidence of sales were seized,” the RCMP said.
Employees at both Chemainus dispensaries have started online campaigns to raise funds for legal fees.
“We’ve spoken to our legal counsel and they’re pretty confident that the charges will be dropped,” Aginas said.
The raids come within hours of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Vancouver Island last week and reinforced that marijuana dispensaries are illegal.
Cheyne said he doesn’t plan on being “intimidated” despite the RCMP sending a letter to the building’s owner threatening to take possession if things continue.
“They guaranteed me that they’re going to continue to attack me and I guaranteed them that I wasn’t going to stop either,” he said. “At the end of the day we just need to care.”
Original article can be found here