Vancouver gets first licensed pot shop as B.C. lags behind other provinces

Evergreen Cannabis owner Mike Babins said store will re-open a few days later than he hoped

A licensed marijuana store is set to open in Vancouver as the number of legal pot shops in British Columbia still lags behind other provinces.

Evergreen Cannabis owner Mike Babins said the store received its provincial licence this week and plans to open its doors on Jan. 5, a few days later than he originally intended.

As long as it receives a municipal licence, it will be the first legal store in the city since recreational cannabis was legalized on Oct. 17.

Babins said the provincial licensing process was “extremely, extremely thorough.”

“They worked really, really, really hard to make sure there’s no organized crime in this industry,” he said.

“They went back 20 years with me and my wife to find out every job we’ve had, every vacation we’ve taken.”

The store co-founded by Babins and his wife Maria Petrucci in the city’s Kitsilano neighbourhood originally opened as a medical marijuana dispensary in September 2015. It operated for three years with a municipal licence under the city’s old licensing regime.

READ MORE: First licensed cannabis store to open in Lower Mainland, 2 months post-legalization

WATCH: ‘A little odd’: B.C.’s biggest city celebrates cannabis without a legal store

The couple shut the store’s doors on Oct. 16 while they waited for provincial approval to reopen as a recreational weed shop.

A number of illegal dispensaries remain open in Vancouver despite a court order this month affirming the city’s authority to shut them down.

The approval of Evergreen brings the total number of licensed marijuana shops in B.C. to five, with the others in Kamloops, Kimberley and Pouce Coupe.

Provincial government websites list 65 licensed pot retailers in Alberta and 20 in New Brunswick, while Ontario will not have any stores until April.

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth has defended the province’s pace on pot shops, saying the government gave more of a voice to municipalities than others.

Babins said he believes B.C. licensing officials are working hard and he understands why it’s taking so long to licence stores.

“Having seen what the process is, I completely understand now,” he said.

The couple paid taxes from Day 1, tracked everything they purchased and never borrowed money, instead using retirement savings to open the store, he said. They also hired a lawyer and consulting firm to help with the application.

“We did everything right. We made it easy for them and it still took this long because they had to check to make sure we were squeaky clean.”

They applied for a provincial licence in mid-August and finally received it on Tuesday.

The store still requires a new municipal licence to operate legally. Babins said the city has signalled its support of the store but no one is available over the holidays to issue their licence, so the couple plans to be at city hall first thing on Tuesday.

While he initially planned to open Saturday, Babins said the order he placed with the BC Cannabis Store to supply the shop didn’t go through because municipal approvals were not in place.

“Unfortunately the system is set up in a way that without certain paperwork put in the system, it won’t open the portal for us to make the order,” he said.

“We’re not taking it as a step back. We’ve followed the rules from Day 1 and we’re not going to start breaking them now.”

Although shortages persist across the country and many items on the BC Cannabis Store are listed as “limited quantity,” Babins said he anticipates having enough supply. His goal is to have 20 different strains on site at all times.

Asked what he expects from customers when the store opens, Babins described Kitsilano as “ground zero for legalization of cannabis since the 1960s.”

“We have a large amount of old hippies who have been waiting for this day a very long time. We’re right near UBC, so we have a large amount of students who’ve been waiting for this day a long time,” he said with a laugh.

“Then there’s all the middle-aged couples, the parents, the soccer moms, who are so glad the stigma is finally up. … And I’m assuming there are going to be a lot of people who are just curious, too.”

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘Gran’pa grew it, says young Stephen Nahirnick as he maintains a tight grip on one of Steve Nahirnick’s Hallowe’en pumpkins. Stephen is son of Jack and Joan Nahirnick and he took the opportunity last week to enjoy splendid autumn weather while perched on grandfather’s knee while the elder Nahirnick was harvesting luxuriant and large garden.’ (Lake News/Oct. 22, 1980)
Flashback: Halloween night full of activities, crime

Welcome to Lake Flashback. Reporter Sarah Simpson has been combing through old… Continue reading

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Cowichan Valley riding being called for Sonia Furstenau; Nanaimo-North Cowichan for Doug Routley

It’s officially Election Day in B.C.’s 2020 provincial snap election and the… Continue reading

Tanya Kaul, the Liberal candidate for Cowichan Valley, waves with her team on election night. (Submitted photo)
Kaul energized to run again for the Liberals in 4 years

“I have a team already in place so we’ll be ready.”

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Most Read