EDITORIAL – Close down illegal pot shops, or leave them alone?

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

CITIES AND TOWNS across B.C. — including Kamloops — will need the wisdom of Solomon to deal with illegal pot stores in the run-up to a change in federal laws next year.

Until July 1, 2018, the sale of recreational marijuana is illegal, but so is the unlicensed sale of medical marijuana. The impending legalization of recreational cannabis has encouraged the proliferation of medical marijuana shops.

Pick a city and do an online search for cannabis dispensaries and you’ll quickly see the extent of the challenge. There are more than a half dozen such storefronts in Kamloops.

B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth has announced that the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch will handle wholesale distribution of legalized weed, and that retail sales will be done through both private and public channels, but it’s still all very foggy.

In the meantime, there’s the issue of what to do about illegal vendors. Crack down on them, or leave them alone?

“Compassion clubs,” as they’re sometimes called, have been ignored since 2011 when RCMP raided one on Tranquille Road and closed it down. Police can do it again if they feel so inclined but, regardless of that, City Hall is looking at amendments to its business licensing rules to put the squeeze on.

The City says there’s no way of knowing whether their product is safe for consumption, plus not everybody wants a pot shop in their neighbourhood.

If they’re left untouched now, they would be grandfathered and hard to control through city bylaws when legalization comes in.

On the other hand, some people do depend on them for medical marijuana. It’s hard to sympathize with illegal businesses, but hard not to sympathize with people who need them for their medicine.

A year, ago, Penticton approved temporary permits for several dispensaries, but seven months later ended the experiment and banned them outright.

Kamloops council’s approach is to hold a public hearing on proposed bylaw changes to deal with the situation. It promises to be a lively session.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger’s Armchair Mayor editorials appear twice daily Mondays through Thursdays on CFJC- TV. His Armchair Mayor column is published Saturdays on and CFJC Today. Contact him at

About Mel Rothenburger (6477 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

3 Comments on EDITORIAL – Close down illegal pot shops, or leave them alone?

  1. “Cut the baby in two.”
    The real mother will give her baby to the false one to save the life of her own baby.
    There is no “sharing” the the market for cannabis.
    Eventually, the illegal growers might give up and move on to other things. Or, if the government cuts some kind of deal with organized crime, the marketplace for cannabis will be strictly supplied by liquor store outlets.
    Who is the real mother? Time will tell.

  2. The stores do need to be shut down because in Canada we follow, or should follow the rules.
    That is first and foremost to a well-running society. It is too bad the issue of decriminalization of marijuana has been pushed off this long. People in need will need to keep on getting the “substance” the same way they did in the past…for now.

  3. David Johnson // December 7, 2017 at 4:52 AM // Reply

    Council will pass the motions before it to limit permits, I’m not worried about that.
    The existing stores do need to close, and should be shut down. We dont need to push the RCMP to raid them before July based on drug laws, they will be ‘weeded’ out (… see what I did there, lol) by a simple lack of business permit, and operating outside of whatever system the BC govt puts in place. Not unlike if someone tried to open a private liquor store without permit.

    Existing pot stores (non medical) will argue private enterprise for a legal product case, but I agree with the BC Govt, only allow this to be sold at first from actual BC Govt liquor stores, not private liquor stores or pot retailers. One day, once the furor dies down and the market is understood, perhaps open it up to private liquor stores.

    Reading the motions before council carefully, I realised that there wont be much to talk about, as the BC government has not released details yet. The motions are only about fixing language regarding business licences, including cannabis in a few statutes, in preparation of the coming change. Its not about where or how it will be sold … yet.

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