Jukka Laurio said he was planning to go quietly into the background and close Herbal Greens, his medical marijuana dispensary, until the City of Penticton put him back in business.
“Apparently I am open for business, didn’t you hear? That’s what the city told everybody,” said Laurio, referring to a press release issued by the city Tuesday evening. In it, the city announced they were proceeding with court action against Laurio for failure to close Herbal Greens as directed.
“They are the ones that put it in the news. As soon as people heard it in the news, there was a lineup this morning (April 26) outside the door,” said Laurio, adding that he chose to open the medical marijuana dispensary and sell product.
“If I am being accused of something and I am being punished for it, I sure as hell am going to do it. They should have just let it go. I would have given up the building, I would have been gone,” said Laurio. “If they (City of Penticton) want to keep me in business, I will stay in business.”
City council endorsed the injunctive action at a March 21 meeting, where Laurio agreed to close his business.
“That has not occurred,” said Anthony Haddad, director of development services. “He still operated his business, as evidenced by the April 20 grand reopening.”
Laurio said he did close his business, as promised, on March 23, clearing out the sales floor, liquidating assets, and advising the building owner he wanted to terminate his lease. April 20 was a special event.
“I opened on April 20 — 420 (marijuana’s high holiday) — for a political message event. I had a two-for-one sale,” said Laurio. Other than that, he has only been selling to his “personal clientele.”
“They will never go away. They’ve been around for seven or eight years, that is not going to stop,” said Laurio, who was unconcerned by the legal implications.
“It’s illegal. There is only 37,000 people that can smoke marijuana legally in Canada. All other marijuana sales, all other marijuana use in Canada is illegal. A dispensary is illegal, they’re all illegal,” said Laurio.
Laurio said he can stretch the city’s court process out to last the year to go before legalization of marijuana is expected to be implemented.
“We’ve had many discussions with Mr. Laurio over the last year and well before that. It was clear to us that he has reopened his business in contravention to council’s direction and the business licence bylaw, so we are proceeding with the action to hopefully bring a close to the matter,” said Haddad. “We are also pursuing the outstanding $30,000 in fines that have been issued since the temporary use permit was denied.”