Jukka Laurio during one of his previous appearances before Penticton city council. Laurio has promised he is closing his Herbal Green marijuana dispensary as of 6 p.m. on March 22. -Western News file photo

Marijuana dispensary closing

Was this Jukka Laurio’s final appearance before council?

Listening to Jukka Laurio argue about his business licence before city council is something of a familar experience for regular members of the gallery, but March 21 may have been his final appearance.

“It has been an admirable struggle. I really enjoyed the process and you are all noble and worthy adversaries. I think a lot of public education came out of this,” said Laurio, explaining that he was closing the shop as of 6 p.m. on March 23, referencing the warning issued by the RCMP last week.

More: RCMP order three dispensaries to cease operations

Council was being asked to cancel Laurio’s business licence on Herbal Green, which he operates as a marijuana dispensary. Last summer, he had a previous business licence cancelled over the marijuana sales issue.

“I won’t spend too much time on the background because it has been repeated so many times,” said bylaw supervisor Tina Seibert, introducing her report to council.

On Nov. 9, Laurio applied for a business licence for Herbal Green as a food and nutritional retail store, which the city granted him on Jan. 3.

“He assured city staff that it would not include the sale of cannabis products,” said Seibert. “He told us he wanted to have a grocery store, basically.”

Lukka, however, continued to sell marijuana and related products, and contested Seibert’s evaluation: “I wouldn’t say false, it was just sort of not fully disclosed.”

More: Pot shop owner plans to sue the City of Penticton

“Recently, staff have found a motion detector and a CCTV camera, all installed on city property, without city permission,” said Siebert. “That’s just within the last couple of weeks.”

Siebert also said they had received a number of noise, odour and parking complaints related to the business.

So far, Lukka has stacked up two bylaw offence notices at $250 each and 59 municipal ticket information (MTI) fines at $500 each, for a total of $30,000 owed to the city. Seibert said that issue is expected to go to provincial court in early April.

“Basically, he has disputed all of those tickets. We have jumped from MTIs to civil injunction requests,” said Seibert, who noted in her report that the city has spent over $10,000 in legal and labour costs dealing with marijuana dispensaries like Laurio’s.

They’ve also collected $26,900 in fines from non-compliant dispensaries.

City staff wanted council to suspend or cancel Laurio’s business licence, and to direct staff to start the legal proceedings against Laurio, both to prevent his ongoing violation of city bylaw and apply for ancillary relief.

Laurio was complimentary to Seibert’s report when he stepped up to present his case.

“It is an excellent piece of work. One of the best ones that has ever come forward so far,” said Laurio. “It is just disappointing that I am not going to be able to dispute it, refute it or argue about it.”

Laurio said it was up to council whether they wanted to continue with the Supreme Court injunction proceedings.

“I don’t really care what you do from this point on. I don’t really know what I am going to do,” said Laurio, who remained elusive when asked whether he planned to pay the fines owed to the city before the provincial court case.

“If you want to negotiate something between now and then, I am fine,” he told city council. “I am perfectly willing to go to court and we can argue. I am pretty good at arguing.”

Seibert said Laurio’s closure plans were “news to us” and asked council to endorse the staff request to take Laurio to Supreme Court.

“We should proceed with the injunctive request, just because you can say one thing and do another,” said Seibert. “Until there is a definite solution in place, I would prefer we continue our process.”

Council voted unanimously to cancel Laurio’s business licence and allow staff to continue with legal action.

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