Pubdate: Thu, 26 May 2016
Source: Vancouver Courier (CN BC)
Page: A5
Copyright: 2016 Vancouver Courier
Author: Mike Howell


Former Mixed-martial Arts Fighter, Ex-College Basketball Player Among
Directors Of Marijuana Dispensary

A personal trainer, an entrepreneur and a recent kinesiology grad are
the three partners behind the city's first illegal marijuana
dispensary to receive a business licence.

Jesse Charn Rice-Jones, Harkrishan Singh Sidhu and Bradley James
Quevillon are directors of Wealthshop Social Society, which plans to
open the Wealth Shop retail dispensary next week at suite 104-4545
West 10th Ave in Point Grey.

The trio hoped to keep a low profile before opening the shop but
understood there would be media interest in learning more about the
operators behind the city's first licensed dispensary.

"We were very excited and, of course, being the first one and kind of
making history here is great for us," said Sidhu of receiving a
business licence Monday.

Unlike many applicants who applied for a licence, the trio was not
operating a dispensary when it submitted an application to the city in
August 2015. That was the same month the partners incorporated their

Now the trio is looking to open two more dispensaries in Vancouver and
is close to opening one next week in Toronto, where that city has yet
to introduce a licensing scheme. All dispensaries are still considered
illegal under Canada's drug laws.

"From a business standpoint, it made a lot of sense to get in the mix
now," said Sidhu, noting the federal government promised to introduce
legislation next spring to legalize marijuana. "I'm a strong believer
in [cannabis] as a natural remedy for people, as opposed to
pharmaceuticals and other types of drugs that people take for their
ailments. That's the motivation, really, to do this business and to
create a company that looks after its members and creates just a
general better overall health and wellness for everyone."

Sidhu and Rice-Jones spoke to the Courier Wednesday via speakerphone.
Quevillon, a kinesiology grad and former college basketball player,
wasn't present for the interview.

Sidhu said his background is in land development and the construction
of high-end single-family high homes. He has also worked as consultant
related to medical technology and financing film deals.

Rice-Jones, 38, said he is a personal trainer, who has competed in
mixed-martial arts fights. YouTube features one of his fights. He also
wrote a book titled "Breaking the Silence" to share personal stories
and those of friends he grew up with in what he described was a
tumultuous time.

"When I grew up, I experienced a lot of things that I feel that youth
may be able to relate to," he said, without going into detail. "To be
honest, I made some not-very-good decisions when I was younger and
I've learned from it. It's made me who I am today."

Sidhu said he has never used marijuana. Rice-Jones said Quevillon, a
longtime friend, was prescribed marijuana to relieve pain from a back
injury. Rice-Jones, who used marijuana when he was younger, said his
late father used medicinal marijuana 16 years ago to ease his pain
after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

"It dramatically helped the transition to the inevitable, which was
him dying," said Rice-Jones, noting terminally ill customers of Wealth
Shop will get their marijuana at cost.

The partners wouldn't disclose who their supplier or suppliers are but
Rice-Jones said, "I can tell you it's not the black market, I can tell
you that it's not organized crime." The shop has a proper security
plan in place, they said.

They acknowledge their Point Grey business is a for-profit model but
are branding the operation as a "health and wellness" company for adults.

They said it cost them more than $100,000 to set up the dispensary.
The cost included hiring an architect and renovating the suite, which
is in a complex that shares a parking lot with Safeway and includes a
law office, veterinarian and dentist. Though the city charges $30,000
a year for pot shop licence, Wealth Shop paid $20,000 to cover the
remainder of the year. A compassion club licence costs $1,000 per year.

Andreea Toma, the city's chief licensing inspector, told the Courier
Monday the Wealth Shop met all the city's criteria to obtain a
business licence, including the directors and staff undergoing
criminal record checks and signing a "good neighbour agreement."

"If anything that they do doesn't meet our current regulations, we
will bring them back in and have a chat with them," Toma said. "The
good neighbour agreement signed yesterday clearly indicated that, and
they were all willing to sign it."

The city's move to offer licences to pot shops came after city council
voted 8-3 last June to introduce rules for annual licence fees,
criminal record checks and zoning regulations that prohibit a
dispensary from operating within 300 metres of schools, community
centres, neighbourhood houses and each other.

The city has always maintained the goal is to regulate the business,
not the marijuana. The Vancouver Police Department has said Canada's
drug laws allow for police to make arrests and recommend charges to
Crown, but it does not allow officers to close a pot shop's doors.

More than 60 dispensaries continue to operate in the city in defiance
of the city's new regulations. As of Tuesday, the city issued 139 $250
tickets to pot shops for operating without a business licence. An
additional 20 shops continue to operate without fear of being ticketed
because they are participating in the steps to obtain a licence. 
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D