Jukka Laurio’s store was reportedly being converted to a health product store Thursday morning, the chalk boards behind, previously filled with various brands and strains of cannabis, now blank. Dustin Godfrey/Western News

Dispensary owner bows out of battle with city

Jukka Laurio and the city have confirmed that he is changing the operation without a dispensary

A battle between one of Penticton’s pot shops and city hall appears to have come to a halt — at least for the time being.

Both Jukka Laurio, operator of the Herbal Green Apothecary, and City of Penticton development services director Anthony Haddad have confirmed that the two are working together to close the dispensary in favour of a natural health products store.

“We’re changing operations as you speak,” Laurio said from his store Thursday morning. “We’re turning into a hemp and CBD supply, natural products, herbal remedies. The original store. Teas and that kind of thing. Shampoos, soaps. Health care products.”

Related: Council extinguishes medical marijuana dispensaries

The progress made between the two has resulted in a tentative pause on injunctive actions by the city against Laurio in court, with the two previously set to go to court in late July. According to court documents, however, the hearing was adjourned indefinitely.

“We’re going to be working with him and his representatives to go through the process to create a wellness centre on that property,” Haddad said. “To hopefully circumvent going through the court process.”

Haddad said all three dispensaries currently operating in the city are working with city hall on a process that would shut down their operations selling medical cannabis in favour of a wellness centre model, which would aid patients looking to legally obtain the product through federally approved distributors.

An operator of Green Essence confirmed he is working with the city on the issue, though it was unclear what steps he will take at this time, and declined to comment further.

Related: RCMP order three dispensaries to cease operations

Okanagan Cannabinoid Therapy has repeatedly declined to comment on the issue in the past, and an effort to speak to operators was, again, declined on Thursday.

Laurio said he isn’t aware of what the other dispensaries are working toward, but said he will continue to keep the Rush In and Finish Cafe separate from the Herbal Green Apothecary, which he said will include a pot museum.

“We’re going to set up a store that’s a store, and they’ll do their thing, I’ll do mine, and the business will run and they can run the city,” Laurio said, adding it feels good to find a resolution.

“There’s a lot of other things I’ve been meaning to do, and planning to do, which are more important than a dispensary, but it was just all-consuming.”

Related: Marijuana dispensary closing

But it’s not the first time Laurio indicated he was bowing out of the fight — in April, he closed the store after the RCMP issued letters to all three dispensaries threatening police action if the dispensaries continued to operate.

After some period of time, Laurio opened up shop again, after the RCMP failed to take action on other dispensaries that remained open.

The move to wellness centres comes after council voted 5-2 against renewing the temporary use permits for the two previously approved dispensaries last month.

With one month passed, the dispensaries now have two more months to cease dispensary operations.

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