Article by Matthew Claxton, Agassiz Harrison Observer
Langley Township has collected more than $200,000 in fines from unlicensed marijuana dispensaries since last spring, in what a former dispensary owner calls bullying.
Four medical marijuana dispensaries were operating in the Township, mostly in Aldergrove, in recent months, said interim head of bylaw enforcement Bill Storie.
“We’ve been actively, as they crop up, pursuing them,” he said.
The Township won’t give a business licence to a dispensary.
“There’s nowhere in the zoning bylaw that would permit a dispensary to operate anywhere,” Storie said.
If the dispensaries don’t comply with local bylaws – by shutting down – they can be fined daily.
That means daily fines of $500 for operating without a business licence and $300 for being contrary to zoning bylaws. An additional $500 daily fine for using an advertising sandwich board on the sidewalk has also been levied in some cases, meaning between $800 and $1,300 in daily fines.
Giovanni Romegioli, who grew up in Brookswood, was affiliated with the now-closed Starbuds dispensary on Fraser Highway in downtown Aldergrove.
“They pretty much just bullied us into submission,” Romegioli said.
After months of accumulating fines, the storefront operation shut its doors.
“We tried to run a good business,” he said, noting that they contacted the Township and put $60,000 into renovating their storefront.
The Township handed out tickets worth about $100,000 each to the numbered company that owned the outlet, Starbuds as a society, and the landlords, Romegioli said.
He tried to take the Township to court in a Charter of Rights challenge, after first losing an appeal to a local government adjudicator.
According to the lawsuit, local police enforcement against dispensaries stopped in June of 2017, after which several opened.
Starbuds had about 100 to 150 customers a day, and the court filing said it only sold to adults with legitimate medical needs.
The lawsuit claimed that ticketing began in late May and that by September, approximately 520 tickets had been issued.