An unlicensed cannabis dispensary that has been open for 23 years in Victoria was shut down and raided by B.C.’s community safety unit Thursday.

The Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club, the oldest marijuana dispensary in Canada, was raided at around 10:45 a.m. Thursday morning. The Community Safety Unit (CSU) shut down the store and seized inventory.

The dispensary, which is located at 826 Johnson Street has been open for 23 years. The current location opened in 2001.

Members of the club said they will be gathering at the B.C. legislature tomorrow for a rally to show their support for the club. Supporters also gathered outside the club on Thursday morning during the raid.

The Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club also refers to itself as a community centre, with a space for members to smoke or vape cannabis.

According to the club, there has been resistance throughout the years, with four raids between 2002 and 2003. 

Ted Smith, founder of the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club, said last year that the club would not apply for a provincial licence following legalization because the club sells edibles for medicinal marijuana patients. To become legal, the club would have had to stop those sales.

Starting this October, cannabis edibles, extracts and topicals became legal in Canada. Previously only cannabis plant and oral sprays and capsules were allowed.

Health Canada, which regulates cannabis products, requires 60 days’ notice before making a new product available for sale. That means mid-December will be the earliest time they can be legally sold.

Jacq, a Cannabis Club volunteer said a lot of people who come to the club to get medicine for the day.

“We haven’t been participating in the regulatory system because it is really inaccessible to patients and doesn’t allow for the whole range of products we provide everyday and so we haven’t participated in that model,” Jacq said.

Jacq also added that the club supplies cannabis to the most marginalized people in the community, including people who are low income, people on disability and people with chronic problems.

“We are a medical club, we’re not just participating just to sell cannabis just to recreational users, so these are people whose lives depend on this medicine,” Jacq said.

“Ted Smith’s plan is to continue business as usual because there’s peoples lives that are depending on us. Cancer doesn’t stop and neither will we.”

Dylan Nickerson, also a volunteer, said over 7,000 members now have nowhere to go.

“What’s on the market is not strong enough,” Nickerson said. Edible cannabis products will carry a maximum of 10 mg of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) per package.”

Nickerson said he’s had fibromyalgia since getting hit by a car in 2010 so knows firsthand how cannabis can help.

“We have chocolate bars that go up to 750 mg. And in some cases, we have some patients that need that whole chocolate bar in one day to get out of bed. I’m not talking about getting out of bed to go to work, I’m talking about getting out of bed to go to the bathroom,” Nickerson said.

And the club hopes the provincial government steps in before their clients suffer.

“We want [local MLA Carole James] and this provincial government they need to call their dogs off our sick people we are protecting here,” said Ted Smith, President of the Cannabis Buyers Club.

And regardless of the raid, the Cannabis Club says tomorrow it’ll be business as usual.

“It’s a huge financial hit, we still have some resources and will be open again tomorrow, but if we have sustained heavy raids like this we will eventually go bankrupt,” said Smith.

The CSU, under the Policing and Security Branch of the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, is responsible for compliance and enforcement under the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act (CCLA), with a focus on the illegal sale of cannabis. CSU investigators carry out compliance and enforcement activities against unlicensed cannabis retailers and other illegal sellers across the province.

Late July and August, the CSU raided and shut down Victoria’s Trees Island Grown dispensary chain.