‘Panic buying’ at Victoria cannabis club as it defies eviction

Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club founder Ted Smith said the club’s Johnson Street store and consumption site remains open despite the building’s owner serving them an eviction notice effective Jan. 2. Justin Samanski-Langille / Victoria News photo

The Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club has followed through on its pledge to ignore a Jan. 2 eviction date.

Founder Ted Smith confirmed the unlicensed medical cannabis store and consumption site reopened on Jan. 2 following its holiday closure in defiance of an eviction notice served on Dec. 14 by lawyers representing Bluebird Core Associates Inc., which recently purchased the Johnson Street building.

“After we got enough press, I think the company realized it wouldn’t look good on them, so they started to talk to us,” Smith said. “The timeline they gave was just impossible for us … but they did their job and told us to leave and to stop, so the province shouldn’t be able to hold them accountable for our activities any longer.”

READ MORE: ‘Short notice’: Victoria cannabis club faces eviction from new landlord

Smith said the club is now in talks with the building’s owners to negotiate a solution which would give the club until March to vacate their space, at which time a new location will be ready for them to move into permanently.

A key element in those negotiations at the moment are fire safety concerns stemming from the club’s indoor smoking room, Smith said.

In an effort to alleviate some of those concerns, the club is offering to pay the monthly fees for a fire monitoring service for the entire building for as long as the club occupies their space there, with the building owner covering the installation costs, he said.

READ MORE: Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club official: Cannabis Act legislative review may threaten medical marijuana program

While Smith said he is trying to remain hopeful the talks will buy the club some time, he said it remains a day-by-day worry the club could find the locks to their doors changed, and Smith and his lawyers in court fighting the eviction directly.

“Our members are scared for their lives; we had a lot of panic buying when news this was happening got out,” said Smith.

Since news of the eviction broke, Smith said the club’s membership and the wider community has been offering plenty of support.

When it does eventually come time to move the club to its new location just a few blocks away, he said he expects to be able to form a human chain of volunteers passing each item to be moved down the line.

If they are able to stay in their current home of the past 21 years until March, Smith said they plan to hold a potluck celebration later this month to mark the club’s 27th anniversary.

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