Police let three Edmonton store owners off with warnings for illegally selling vape pens containing cannabis last month.
Edmonton police said Thursday that they seized about $1,500 worth of cannabis products from three separate businesses on Aug. 21, following a joint investigation with the city into retailers selling cannabis without municipal and provincial licences.
“They could have faced criminal charges, but it was determined it was more in the public interest to just leave it at the fines, and then advise the staff that if this were to continue, then they would be looking at criminal charges moving forward,” said Edmonton Police Service constable and cannabis liaison Dexx Williams.
Williams said the business were “blatantly” displaying the products and seemed to genuinely be under the impression that they were allowed to sell vape products containing CBD, or cannabidiol.
“This wasn’t them being overly discrete, it wasn’t like it was hidden in some underground compartment. They were selling it on their shelves.”
He said all three retailers co-operated with police.
Some retailers are unclear about the legality of CBD, a non-intoxicating cannabinoid derived from hemp or marijuana plants, believing it’s the psychoactive THC that makes cannabis products illegal. Star Edmonton visited several local retailers in March — including a pet store and a vitamin store — that were selling CBD products under the impression they were legal.
But Canada’s Cannabis Act prohibits unlicensed distribution or sale of cannabis in any form, with penalties of up to 14 years in prison. Business owners can face fines up to $50,000 and their employees can be charged as much as $10,000 each.
While the three Edmonton businesses will escape criminal charges, they will still pay a price.
Municipal bylaw officers dished out $6,000 in fines to each of the three stores, as well as five others, for violating licence and zoning bylaws by selling cannabis products.
The city sent plainclothes bylaw officers to 50 stores suspected of selling cannabis illegally in early August after getting tipped off through social media, the city’s 311 phone line, and other sources.
Justin Lallemand, specialized program co-ordinator with the city’s complaints and investigations section, said employees at eight of those stores tried to sell cannabis products to plainclothes officers during the investigation between Aug. 3 and 10.
“The product was offered to our municipal enforcement officers, and we never cleared the transaction. So we had made an agreement to purchase the cannabis, but we never actually took ownership of it or left the store with any cannabis product,” Lallemand said.
On Aug. 21, bylaw officers returned with police to issue fines to those eight businesses. That’s when Williams seized products from the three stores that had the vape pens out in the open.