A pot shop franchise with ties to Canada's most famous marijuana activist is open on the edge of downtown Port Coquitlam.
And the spokesperson for Cannabis Culture said the company plans to push further into the suburbs given its success in PoCo.
Yesterday (Thursday), Jodie Emery — wife of the so-called "Prince of Pot" crusader Marc Emery, leader of the BC Marijuana Party — told The Tri-City News the company wants to expand into other Lower Mainland municipalities so people don't have to drive into Vancouver to buy marijuana.
"We thought it would be more convenient and helpful to create jobs and economic growth in the community of Port Coquitlam," she said. "We want the money to stay in the community in which we serve."
Emery said Cannabis Culture sells to adults aged 19 and over with proper identification — not just medical patients with a doctor's note.
"We are not trying to be freewheeling and sell to anybody and everybody. We are trying to set up a very serious model based on the Amsterdam model."
The PoCo franchise, which started two months ago in a strip mall at Shaughnessy Street and Lions Way, is currently under investigation, Coquitlam RCMP Const. Jamie Phillipson said.
(In March, police executed a search warrant on the Tri-City Compassion Club, which ran its operation out of the same space. At the time, police said it was "in contravention of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act by allegedly selling marijuana outside the parameters set by Health Canada.")
On Wednesday, city staff ticketed the person in charge of leasing the unit for failing to have a business licence.
PoCo's bylaw services manager, Dan Scoones, said the operator submitted a licence form with a declared use as a "counselling centre." But because "it was obvious they were doing more than that, we asked them for clarification. They have not responded to the two requests."
Now, the operator faces a fine of $150 a day while the doors stay open.
Scoones said the city will follow due process by allowing the required 14 days to pass to give the dispensary time to dispute. He said council is aware of the business and can order civil action to close it down.
Scoones said he has spoken with the property owner, who noted a condition of the lease is that no illegal trading was to happen on site.
But Jodie Emery contends while there is concern the PoCo location may soon be shut down by law enforcement, Cannabis Culture is doing good.
And she cited the U.S. election this week, when voters California, Nevada and Massachusetts voted to legalize recreational pot use in those states.
"Clearly, the market shows that supply and demand is working when it comes to marijuana and dispensaries are popular," she said, adding, "It's like a fresh-pressed juice [store] or a yoga studio: A lot of businesses open because the clientele demands it and supports it — just like PoCo residents and residents across Canada demand it and want access to it."
She added, "We feel it's better that they can come into a storefront rather than meeting a stranger on the street."
Emery said the PoCo franchise — which, according to its website, sells various strains of bud from B.C. and California — is owned by a private investor who also has Cannabis Cultural franchises on Beatty Street in Vancouver and four shops in Toronto (the fifth is owned by Marc Emery).
She said its franchises yield between $2,000 and $20,000 a day, depending on the site. Because the PoCo location hasn't been promoted and doesn't carry much stock, its profit "is definitely in the low range."
As for security, Emery said at least two employees are on hand at all times and there are cameras. She said she also visited the location before it opened to consult with neighbours and shoppers — all of whom she said were in favour. (While the business is not near schools or single-family homes, it backs onto Lions Park, which has a large playground and skateboard park.)
Emery said Cannabis Culture wants to be a good corporate citizen. Currently, it is holding a fundraiser for veterans in the lead-up to Remembrance Day. And she said she is reaching out to Mayor Greg Moore to talk about the business (she said city staff twice rejected her request).
"There's no harm done on our part so we would hope we would be allowed to operate peacefully… We're not in PoCo to cause harm."