Unlicensed Penticton pot shop moves to Okanagan Falls

Jukka Laurio is moving his unsanctioned Penticton marijuana dispensary 20 kilometres south to Okanagan Falls.

Global News visited the new Herbal Green Apothecary location at 936 Main Street on Wednesday.

Marijuana was on full display and customers streamed through the door to purchase the product.

Last spring the City of Penticton’s licensing program for pot shops went up in smoke.

City of Penticton nixes pot shops

The city decided not to extend temporary use permits previously issued to two operating dispensaries.

Instead it required the pot shops to sign “consent orders” to transform into wellness centres, banning them from selling cannabis.

Green Essence and Okanagan Cannabinoid Therapy complied but Laurio refused.

“I was unwilling to sign their wellness centre agreement they were requiring… it’s just something I couldn’t do,” Laurio said.

He has had an acrimonious relationship with the city, racking up $30,000 in fines for operating without a business licence and legal action has been exchanged.

City of Penticton taking unlicensed pot shop to court

But now– Laurio says he’s closing his Penticton location for good.

“I’m closing everything, by the end of the month I will have no business, and I won’t be living in Penticton,” he said. “I will have no connection at all to anything that goes on there.”’

Marijuana on public display at the Herbal Green Apothecary dispensary in Okanagan Falls

Marijuana on public display at the Herbal Green Apothecary dispensary in Okanagan Falls

Shelby Thom/Global News

Laurio bought the Okanagan Falls building to run his dispensary and café for a fresh start.

The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen says it is essentially powerless to take action with no bylaw to enforce.

“Currently the regional district does not have the authority to issue business licences and that’s different then an incorporated municipality like Penticton and Summerland,” said development services manager Brad Dollevoet.

Marijuana dispensaries in Penticton granted temporary permits

Dollevoet also says the business would not violate zoning regulations because it falls under “retail.”

He says enforcement of the law is the responsibility of the RCMP. A request for comment has not yet been received.

It’s a lucrative business so Laurio refuses to shut down.

“I’ll go so far as to say the number  was totally outrageous when it was finally calculated at the end of the year.”

Penticton pot shop bows to RCMP pressure, closes

Laurio says after covering staff wages and operational costs, he is donating surplus revenue to charities.

“It’s still a crime so you can’t keep the money, so you can’t profit from the crime, so I’m doing my best just to spread it around!”

Those donations have been in cash.

“Cash donations, just big bags of cash.”

The SS Sicamous confirmed it received a $3,000 cash donation from Herbal Green Apothecary on February 20, 2017.

The Penticton Art Gallery also says it’s received donations from Laurio and he is featured on their donor wall.

Laurio says the transition to the new location will be finalized by this weekend.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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