13 cannabis dispensaries shut down after Saint John undercover operation

·2 min read
Only CannabisNB is legally allowed to sell cannabis in New Brunswick. (Richard Vogel/The Associated Press - image credit)
Only CannabisNB is legally allowed to sell cannabis in New Brunswick. (Richard Vogel/The Associated Press - image credit)

Two police forces and the provincial Justice Department have shut down 13 cannabis dispensaries after a December undercover operation.

Saint John police say they worked with the Kennebecasis Regional Police Force and the Justice and Public Safety Department to conduct an undercover operation.

A release said that in December 2021, undercover officers bought illegal cannabis from the 14 dispensaries, establishing that they're contravening the provincial Cannabis Control Act.

Staff Sgt. Andrew MacBean said the force then handed the investigation over to the Department of Justice.

The department used the Civil Forfeiture Act to warn property owners that their buildings could be seized if they continue to rent to dispensaries.

The news release said that of the 14 locations targeted during the operation, only one stayed open, and "is currently subject of ongoing court proceedings."

More than warnings

Under the act, the province has the power to ask a judge to order property owners to hand over their buildings, if the province is able to prove te property is being used for crime.

Over the last five months, court records show the Crown has filed at least four applications for forfeiture against four different property owners and dispensaries.

Three of the applications were withdrawn because the Crown was satisfied the criminal activity had stopped.

One was thrown out by the judge, with costs, after a lawyer hired by the property owner successfully argued against the forfeiture.

Police don't answer questions

MacBean said the force would not release the names of the 14 dispensaries or say what the court proceedings entail.

The force also did not say if any property was actually seized during this operation.

Saint John police and the province have been trying to use the Civil Forfeiture Act to force illegal dispensaries to shut down since 2019.

They successfully shut down some dispensaries, but others opened in different locations.

In New Brunswick, only CannabisNB is legally allowed to sell cannabis products.

But private dispensaries have continued to operate. Some people choose to go there because the products could be more affordable or have more variety.

The dispensaries don't follow the advertising and quality control rules that CannabisNB has to follow.