A popular dispensary in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood was raided by the Vancouver police today (February 27).
Several hours after the raid, a neon “open” sign still flashed in the front window of Hempire cannabis dispensary (310 Carrall Street). A ripped handwritten sign hung that read: “Back in 5 mins”, but the doors were locked and the lights off. Upon closer inspection, the shelves inside were bare, only carrying a few sparse trays of Bic lighters and stickers.
Sheyanne Turner, a witness who was in the store when the raid took place, told a Georgia Straight reporter that several officers from the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) showed up around 1:00 p.m.
Turner says she and a few other customers were inside the dispensary when police officers entered through the front door.
“While they were asking everybody to leave I heard one of the officers says they were shutting them down because they didn’t have the correct permits,” she says. “After that they shut the door and locked it behind them.”
Turner says the police then started confiscating items from the store.
“They pulled up a paddy wagon and began loading everything in the back. I couldn’t tell if they were taking just the cannabis off-site or the cash as well.”
She says a large crowd gathered outside, but no apparent arrests were made.
“There were two staff members working, and they were just talking to the officers. Nobody was escorted out,” she says.
Turner, who lives nearby, says the dispensary next door to Hempire, Kush Mountain Medicinals, has also been closed for the last two weeks.
Hempire is one of more than 100 illicit dispensaries that existed in Vancouver before the federal legalization of cannabis last year. In December, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled in favour of Vancouver’s bylaws, ordering longtime dispensaries, like Karuna Health Foundation and Weed Glass and Gifts, to shut down. Any store owner that did not shut down and attempt the transition through legal channels was at risk of a raid, fines, and seizures.
“It’s not like these bylaws were sprung on these people,” Vancouver’s mayor Kennedy Steward said to the Straight in December. “They’ve known for quite some time, for many months, that this is what is coming and what’s been in place. They’ve had lots of time to adjust, so that’s what they should be doing.”
While three stores have legally opened in Vancouver, and a handful of illicit dispensaries like Cannabis Culture opted to voluntarily shut down, this is the first public police raid.
UPDATE: In response to request for comment, media relations officer Sergeant Jason Robillard confirmed the VDP executed five search warrants today in Abbotsford, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, and Vancouver. In an email to the Straight, he wrote: ‘The warrants are related to an ongoing organized crime investigation.’ Due to the active status of the investigation, the VPD are refraining from further comment at this time.