Vancouver gets first licensed pot shop as B.C. lags behind other provinces

Evergreen Cannabis owner Mike Babins said store will re-open a few days later than he hoped

A licensed marijuana store is set to open in Vancouver as the number of legal pot shops in British Columbia still lags behind other provinces.

Evergreen Cannabis owner Mike Babins said the store received its provincial licence this week and plans to open its doors on Jan. 5, a few days later than he originally intended.

As long as it receives a municipal licence, it will be the first legal store in the city since recreational cannabis was legalized on Oct. 17.

Babins said the provincial licensing process was “extremely, extremely thorough.”

“They worked really, really, really hard to make sure there’s no organized crime in this industry,” he said.

“They went back 20 years with me and my wife to find out every job we’ve had, every vacation we’ve taken.”

The store co-founded by Babins and his wife Maria Petrucci in the city’s Kitsilano neighbourhood originally opened as a medical marijuana dispensary in September 2015. It operated for three years with a municipal licence under the city’s old licensing regime.

READ MORE: First licensed cannabis store to open in Lower Mainland, 2 months post-legalization

WATCH: ‘A little odd’: B.C.’s biggest city celebrates cannabis without a legal store

The couple shut the store’s doors on Oct. 16 while they waited for provincial approval to reopen as a recreational weed shop.

A number of illegal dispensaries remain open in Vancouver despite a court order this month affirming the city’s authority to shut them down.

The approval of Evergreen brings the total number of licensed marijuana shops in B.C. to five, with the others in Kamloops, Kimberley and Pouce Coupe.

Provincial government websites list 65 licensed pot retailers in Alberta and 20 in New Brunswick, while Ontario will not have any stores until April.

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth has defended the province’s pace on pot shops, saying the government gave more of a voice to municipalities than others.

Babins said he believes B.C. licensing officials are working hard and he understands why it’s taking so long to licence stores.

“Having seen what the process is, I completely understand now,” he said.

The couple paid taxes from Day 1, tracked everything they purchased and never borrowed money, instead using retirement savings to open the store, he said. They also hired a lawyer and consulting firm to help with the application.

“We did everything right. We made it easy for them and it still took this long because they had to check to make sure we were squeaky clean.”

They applied for a provincial licence in mid-August and finally received it on Tuesday.

The store still requires a new municipal licence to operate legally. Babins said the city has signalled its support of the store but no one is available over the holidays to issue their licence, so the couple plans to be at city hall first thing on Tuesday.

While he initially planned to open Saturday, Babins said the order he placed with the BC Cannabis Store to supply the shop didn’t go through because municipal approvals were not in place.

“Unfortunately the system is set up in a way that without certain paperwork put in the system, it won’t open the portal for us to make the order,” he said.

“We’re not taking it as a step back. We’ve followed the rules from Day 1 and we’re not going to start breaking them now.”

Although shortages persist across the country and many items on the BC Cannabis Store are listed as “limited quantity,” Babins said he anticipates having enough supply. His goal is to have 20 different strains on site at all times.

Asked what he expects from customers when the store opens, Babins described Kitsilano as “ground zero for legalization of cannabis since the 1960s.”

“We have a large amount of old hippies who have been waiting for this day a very long time. We’re right near UBC, so we have a large amount of students who’ve been waiting for this day a long time,” he said with a laugh.

“Then there’s all the middle-aged couples, the parents, the soccer moms, who are so glad the stigma is finally up. … And I’m assuming there are going to be a lot of people who are just curious, too.”

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

NDP bring Green New Deal to the Kootenays

MPs Wayne Stetski and Peter Julian held climate change talks in Nelson, Cranbrook and Revelstoke

Smoke-free summer a boon for West Kootenay tourism

Tourism centres seeing numbers up

Saving lives on grocery list for Castlegar responders on Wednesday

Crews attended local supermarkets three times during the day

Black Press Kootenay Career Fair underway in Cranbrook

Today, Thursday, August 22, around 40 employers will be waiting to meet potential new employees

National trail group decries province’s plans for West Kootenay trail

Converting trail back to motorized use will harm its international reputation, says official

New police force in Surrey must avoid VPD, RCMP errors made in Pickton case: Oppal

Boots are scheduled to be on the ground by spring 2021

B.C. sockeye returns drop as official calls 2019 ‘extremely challenging’

Federal government says officials are seeing the same thing off Alaska and Washington state

B.C. music teacher accused of sexual misconduct involving girls

Police believe other victims could be out there after the arrest of Lamar Victor Alviar

B.C. family stranded in Croatia desperate to come home

Funds being raised to bring back mom and two children

B.C. man tells judge he attempted suicide a month before daughters’ murders

Andrew Berry takes stand in his defense for December 2017 deaths of young daughters

‘Plenty of time for a deal’: Teachers’ union expects kids back in school on Sept. 3

BCTF says class size, composition at the heart of the issue

Province funds new shuttle buses for 13 B.C. senior centres

Activity, socializing helps maintain health, Adrian Dix says

Thermal imaging cameras eye Salish Sea in hopes of better detecting whales

Cameras installed at BC Ferries’ terminal on Galiano Island, and off southern Gulf Islands

Province approves Surrey municipal police force

Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth green-lights mayor’s campaign promise

Most Read