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UPDATE: Government unit raids cannabis dispensaries on K’ómoks First Nation

KFN releases statement on raids

***This article has been edited to reflect that the RCMP did not conduct the raid. They were only there in peacekeeping efforts.

On the afternoon of Feb. 14, the Government of BC Community Safety Unit (CSU) conducted simultaneous raids on three K’ómoks First Nation cannabis dispensaries.

Personnel from the Comox Valley RCMP oversaw the operation, in an effort to “keep the peace.”

CSU personnel removed all cannabis from The Buddery House, 3420 Dispensary and Cedar Bark Dispensary in a series of raids, shortly after noon. (Paraphernalia and accessories were left behind.)

A fourth dispensary was not open for business at the time of the raids.

Robert Laurie, a lawyer representing The Buddery House (Ad Lucem Law Corporation), said the raids caught his clients by surprise.

“It was very much a surprise to all of us,” he said in a interview during the raids. “In fact, I had emailed the head of the CSU, Doug Ward, who was the senior officer today, yesterday, indicating that we wanted to come to Victoria with our clients, meet with them, and bring to their attention some of the issues and concerns, and also explore the opportunity or transitioning to the Section 119 regime, which is the provincial government’s regime.

“But these clients, as well as other groups from British Columbia, are of the mind that they shouldn’t even be dealing with the provincial government when it comes to the issues of cannabis, and other traditional plant medicines and fungi. So today was really an instance of perhaps an abusive process, or action in bad faith.”

CSU personnel did not respond to interview requests.

“I can add that these CSU officers were not invited here by chief and council,” said Laurie. “They showed up of their own doing.”

UNDRIP at the core of stance

At the core of KFN’s stance is the provincial government’s adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which preserves the Indigenous peoples’ rights to freely pursue their economic development.

“British Columbia is the only province to pass UNDRIP into provincial law, but what does that mean at the end of the day? asked Laurie. “How does UNDRIP and the Canadian Constitution apply to rights of Indigenous access to cannabis… as well as a recognition of Nation to Nation trade of cannabis and other plants and fungi.

“The federal government, and the provincial government, as we have seen today with the CSU, are in many regards seeking to come between Indigenous peoples and ceremonial, traditional plant medicine.”

Laurie openly questioned the motives behind the raids.

“It’s really an eye-opener to see the extent the Community Safety Unit (will go)… at the end of the day, whose safety and community are they concerned with? They should probably more appropriately be called the Community Excise Unit because at the end of the day, I think that’s really why they are here.”

KFN releases statement

K’ómoks First Nation has published a statement on the raids.

“Last month, the Province’s Community Safety Unit (CSU) visited the unregulated cannabis businesses on our Reserve,” reads the statement. “They shared educational materials about the CCLA and how… these businesses can become compliant with Section 119 of the Act. The CCLA is a law of general application. Any laws of general application also apply on Reserves. Today, the CSU started confiscating unlicensed product from the unregulated cannabis shops on Reserve.

“We understand that the CSU’s actions today impact our members and their livelihood. K’ómoks did not have a say in the Province’s actions. The Province is enforcing their law, as is their jurisdiction.

“It is our job as elected leadership to represent our people and advocate for our right for self-governance. We will continue to work on this issue to find a resolution, but it will take time. Our best course of action is to retain legal and business expertise to lobby the government to amend legislation. We plan to work with store owners on Reserve and consult with our community to find a path forward that works for our Nation.”

(Scroll down to read the entire statement.)

The Record has also reached management of 3420 and Cedar Bark.

According to a Government of BC website the Community Safety Unit (CSU)’s mandate “is to deliver a province-wide compliance and enforcement program to prioritize public health and safety, protect children and youth, and keep the criminal element out of the cannabis industry.”

CSU has collected $1.49 million in penalties and seized over $38.18 million in cannabis through 108 enforcement actions. CSU has forced the closure of 232 unlicensed stores in BC. It has also investigated 1,554 websites involved in the illegal sale of cannabis and has disrupted 981 of those websites.

For more information, visit

Shops reopened the next day

A steady stream of customers flowed through the Buddery House, one day after the Government of BC Community Safety Unit (CSU) seized all the cannabis products from the K’ómoks First Nation cannabis dispensary.

The Buddery House, 3420 Cannabis and Cedar Bark Dispensary were all forcibly shut down by the CSU on Wednesday, Feb. 14, after co-ordinated, simultaneous raids on the three businesses.

One day later, it was business (almost) as usual at the Buddery House. 3420 Cannabis also re-opened on Thursday, both with limited stock. (Cedar Bark Dispensary remained closed.)

“We just decided to reopen,” said Buddery House manager Jon Preece. “We believe we have the right to operate and that the regulations do not apply to us.

“The customers have been very supportive today. They are absolutely thrilled that they can get a good product at a good price.”

Terry Farrell

About the Author: Terry Farrell

Terry returned to Black Press in 2014, after seven years at a daily publication in Alberta. He brings 14 years of editorial experience to Comox Valley Record...
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