Trees cannabis stores are re-establishing roots in Nanaimo.
The company, which operated two unlicensed dispensaries in Nanaimo before they were closed and the company fined $775,000 by the province in 2019, has since been licensed by the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch.
Trees has reopened two stores in Victoria and its two Nanaimo stores have been licensed by the LCRB, but Trees has been waiting for a building permit for its store at University Village shopping centre and a commercial operation permit for the store on Bowen Road.
The Bowen Road store was previously a tattoo parlour and the Fifth Street store required a building inspection for a wall that was erected to partition office space. Neither store had previously been inspected because the locations had operated without regulation prior to legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada.
Alex Robb, Trees CEO, said the City of Nanaimo could not issue business licenses for the Nanaimo stores until inspections are completed, which the city had indicated could take several months. Robb said the company had already waited more than two years for LCRB licensing and if permit approvals were to take several more months he would have to lay off the staff he had just hired for both stores.
But on May 20, Robb receive some good news from the city, which informed him Trees would receive a letter of permission to open and operate the stores until the inspections were made and approvals granted, following which, business licenses could be issued.
“Because [the LCRB licence process] took so long we nearly ran out of money, so we had to find financing in order to do construction and purchase inventory, which is hard to do in the cannabis industry these days because, even though it’s legal, you can’t find a bank to make a loan,” Robb said.
He explained, through correspondence with the city, the financial hardships that would be caused by further days to opening the Nanaimo stores, and said he believed that helped garner permission to start retail operations.
Heidi Davidson, city manager of permit centre and business licensing, said building permits are required for both Trees stores.
“They still need to go through the plan review stages and … complete the building permit,” Davidson said. “I cannot issue a business licence until that’s completed, but I said what I can do is just write a letter stating that the city will not penalize you for operating a business without a business licence.”
Davidson said she was hesitant to make the offer because the business is provincially regulated and she was concerned about the possibility of conflict with the province, but she has offered similar solutions to other small businesses in Nanaimo under similar circumstances.
Robb said the Bowen Road store will re-open June 1 and he plans to re-open the Fifth Street store by June 7.