B.C. raids four cannabis shops on K’ómoks First Nation land near Courtenay

B.C. raids four cannabis shops on K'ómoks First Nation land near Courtenay
CHEK
BC CSU officers are pictured at a dispensary on K'omoks First Nation land on May 9, 2024.

B.C.’s community safety unit (CSU), which is responsible for cannabis enforcement in the province, raided four shops on K’ómoks First Nation land this week.

The raids were carried out on Thursday and while no one was arrested, a sizable amount of cannabis and products were seized.

The sign outside The Butterfly Effect cannabis store said it was open Friday but once inside you can see all cannabis products are missing.

The CSU, accompanied by the RCMP, raided it and three other dispensaries on the K’omox First Nation’s reserve near Courtenay.

“A white van pulled in and then some police/cop vehicles showed up and they just walked in and pretty much took everything that was in our store,” said Amanda Chartrand, a co-owner of the store.

Watch the full report below:

All four of the dispensaries that were raided on Thursday are First Nations owned. The owners of the Butterfly Effect believe they seized close to $10,000 worth of cannabis and non-cannabis products.

The frustration is mounting as this is the second time within three months it’s happened. The last raid was Feb. 14.

“That’s a lot of medicine that they have taken, not just from us but from our people,” said Chartrand, who says her store focusses on cannabis products that have potential health benefits.

Jurisdiction battle

Despite the owners saying they have business licenses and have submitted provincial sales tax to the province, none of the four stores raided have a provincial cannabis license.

“They see it as ultimately having rights or sovereignty over rights involving the sale of cannabis, access and use of medicinal plants and being treated like a government,” said Rob Laurie, the Buddery House’s lawyer.

Laurie expects the matter will end up in court where the First Nation will lay out its case.

The Buddery House was back open Friday and doing brisk business.

A surveillance video provided to CHEK News shows police and the enforcement unit denying access to the store’s owner during the raid.

In a statement, the K’omox First Nation calls the enforcement challenging “as they are not allowing the time for our community to work through the process needed, to find a path forward on cannabis that makes sense for our Nation.”

The First Nation says it’s frustrating to see enforcement happening at the cannabis shops when there are other criminal activities are not being enforced on their reserve.

“It’s very insulting when there’s a lot of other things going on that they could do to help protect the community,” said Chartrand.

Last year, the First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC) called on the B.C. and federal governments to change the cannabis legal framework to align with First Nations’ needs.

“First Nations have inherent rights and jurisdiction to govern the cultivation, processing, sale, and consumption of cannabis in their territories,” said the FNLC in April 2023.

The K’ómoks First Nation says it’s working with the affected cannabis shop owners and will continue to advocate for the Nation.

“Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to this situation, and the process takes time,” the council wrote.

In a statement, the province says …”escalation of enforcement action is determined on a case-by-case basis and prioritizes enforcement factors including public safety, links to organized crime, the integrity of the legal market, and consideration of the Province’s commitment to reconciliation.”

With files from CHEK’s Adam Chan

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