A hearing to determine whether to grant a business license for a medical marijuana dispensary in Parksville wrapped up quickly when the applicant failed to appear before city council last Wednesday.
WeeMedical Wellness Society, whose unauthorized shop on Hirst Ave. has been opened — and closed — twice in the past two months, was denied the license in a unanimous vote of council after failing to either appear in person or submit a written support of the application.
“I would move that council authorize staff to inform WeeMedical to immediately cease and desist all operations and that, should WeeMedical fail to comply with council’s order, staff and the city’s solicitor be directed to commence civil proceedings to enforce the city’s business licence bylaw,” coun. Kim Burden said before council agreed unanimously.
The hearing was held immediately prior to council’s regular meeting on April 19, and had been requested by WeeMedical, said Keeva Kehler, the city’s director of administrative services.
May Joan Lui, a WeeMedical Wellness Society director, was scheduled to appear to make a verbal presentation, but on April 18, the day before the hearing, the city received a letter from John McCaskill of WeeMedical stating Lui would not appear.
The society, which has opened more than a dozen medical marijuana dispensaries in B.C., was originally invited to address council March 20, when council was first scheduled to consider the business license application.
“On March 13, a representative of WeeMedical Wellness Society named John McCaskill requested an adjournment to allow the applicant to apply in person,” Kehler told council. “This request was honoured, and the hearing postponed until this (April 19) meeting.”
Immediately before the April 19 hearing, though, Mayor Marc Lefebvre introduced the letter from McCaskill that said Lui would not be appearing as scheduled in council’s agenda packet.
Lefebvre then opened the licence application hearing and described the steps that would be taken — which did not include commentary from the public. He noted the appropriate city staff were in council chambers, and asked for a representative of WeeMedical “to please identify himself or herself and to please come forward to council table so that we may begin the hearing.”
When no response was forthcoming from the gallery, council voted to receive and file McCaskill’s letter, then adopted Burden’s motion to deny the application.
Kehler shared with council the following timeline of WeeMedical’s brief history in downtown Parksville:
Feb. 16 — The city receives a complaint about a medical marijuana shop operating at 2-114 Hirst Ave. A bylaw compliance officer attended and confirmed WeeMedical was open for business without a business license or other permits. Kehler said the compliance officer was told by a dispensary employee that the business included the sale, from the premises, of medical marijuana and cannabis-related products.
Feb. 27 — WeeMedical is provided a business licence application.
March 1 — WeeMedical is provided a signed building permit application.
March 9 — City staff send registered letter to WeeMedical notifying the business of council’s intent to take up the business licence application in a hearing March 20.
March 13 — John McCaskill of WeeMedical requests postponement of the hearing until a WeeMedical representative was available to speak to council in person. The request is granted.
March 15 — Oceanside RCMP executes a search warrant at the Hirst Avenue shop and “seized controlled substances from the site.” A bylaw compliance officer affixes a notice to the front door advising the property may not be occupied until a health and safety inspection has been completed.
March 16 — City sends letter to McCaskill notifying WeeMedical of the new hearing date of April 19. A separate letter is sent to the building owner requiring the owner to respond within 30 days that a certified professional engineer has confirmed the property has been suitably remediated.
March 20 — A city bylaw officer is contacted by a locksmith requesting to enter 2-114 Hirst Ave. to change the locks. The city denies the request until the owner provides proof of remediation.
March 23 — On a routine patrol, a city bylaw officer determines someone has entered the Hirst Avenue property.
March 27 — Oceanside RCMP notify the city WeeMedical has re-opened for business at 2-114 Hirst Ave. and the safety notice has been removed from the front door.
April 11 — Oceanside RCMP return to execute a second warrant. A bylaw compliance officer attends and places a second health and safety notice. RCMP confiscate keys to the property.
Kehler said the city understands the business has not been open since April 11.
Shelves containing products can be seen through the front windows of the WeeMedical location, which retains all of its signage.
Oceanside RCMP Staff Sgt. Marc Pelletier and city bylaw compliance officer Craig Reid were both in attendance for the April 19 hearing. Both departed without comment or interaction with council following the vote to deny the business license application.