Cannabis activist Dana Larsen to comply with court order

Larsen had threatened to keep open the Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary, at 880 East Hastings Street

dana larsen
Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary director Dana Larsen in a selfie with a well-wisher on June 5 at an event to close the dispensary | @DanaLarsen on Twitter

Cannabis retailers who shirked getting city licences to operate, and lost in court after the City of Vancouver petitioned them to close, are complying with the B.C. Court of Appeal's May 31 order to close.

One of the more strident activists involved with one of the stores is Dana Larsen, and he had long said that he intended to keep his store at 880 East Hastings Street open as long as he possibly could. He confirmed on Twitter on June 4, however, that the Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary, for which he is a director, would close today (June 5) at 11 a.m.

“I was open to being arrested and discussed this with my lawyer at length,” he said on Twitter.

“Problem is that staff could also be arrested, we could face fines and seizures that truly put us out of business, we could face problems at our Thurlow [Street] spot. I'm not giving up. This is a tactical retreat!”

Larsen called the closure a “temporary” one, and he said that the store would reopen an hour after its closure as an information and referral space.

The B.C. Court of Appeal’s order was for eight other stores to also shut down. Those dispensaries are:

•Canna Clinic, at 2347 E Hastings Street;

•Green Cross Society Of BC, at 2145 Kingsway Avenue;

•Karuna Health Foundation & Metta Lounge, at 3636 W 4th Avenue;

•Lotusland Cannabis Club, at 3474 West Broadway;

• Weeds Glass and Gifts , at 1808 Burrard Street;

• Weeds Glass and Gifts, at  2580 Kingsway Avenue;

• Weeds Glass and Gifts, at 6657 Main Street; and

• Weeds Glass and Gifts, at 1108 Richards Street.

The City of Vancouver told Business in Vancouver on June 5 that all of those stores have closed except for Lotusland Cannabis Club, which has stopped selling cannabis, and that city inspectors will monitor it and Larsen's store to ensure that they have appropriate business licences for their operations. 

Weeds Glass and Gifts owner Don Briere told BIV on June 5 that he closed all four of the stores that he was ordered to close, and that he now only operates one store, in Sechelt.

“This [would be] different from a cannabis charge,” he said of what he would have faced were he to stay open. “This would be contempt of court. They find that really serious. They’re really annoyed if you ignore them.”

Briere pointed to environmental activist Betty Krawczyk, who was sentenced to 10 months in prison for criminal contempt for violating an injunction to stay away from logging crews in West Vancouver during work on the Sea-to-Sky Highway expansion in 2006.

He said that this example showed that being in contempt of court could mean prison time.

Closing the four stores immediately threw 60 employees out of work, while 40 others are working on winding up the stores and may be laid off soon, he said.

Briere said that he is in the process to get provincial licences to operate cannabis stores legally across the province.

A different Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary, which was not involved in the lawsuit and is at 1182 Thurlow Street, “remains legally open with a development permit, and continues to provide affordable access to the same medicinal-grade cannabis while we are in the process of applying for provincial municipal permits there,” Larsen said.

Six private cannabis stores now operate in Vancouver.

The city has received 39 notifications from the province for Vancouver applications. Twenty-six applicants have completed the public-notification requirement and have been recommended to the province to get approval.