Chad's 420 Smoke Shop only opened Saturday

Chad's 420 Smoke Shop only opened Saturday

Smoke shop sparks backlash

A new business is drawing fire from a few members of the community, but district council won't be stepping in to put out the flames.

A new business in Invermere is drawing fire from a few members of the community, but district council won’t be stepping in to put out the flames.

Tucked between Lake Auto and First Choice Realty on 7th Avenue, Chad’s 420 Smoke shop is the latest in a chain of stores selling pipes, hookahs and other smoking paraphernalia.

This is the chain’s first foray into B.C. Until now, most of its stores have been based in smaller Alberta communities including Olds, Leduc and Strathmore. And at least two residents aren’t pleased Invermere has become the first community in the province with a branch of operations.

“It is obvious that this business actively promotes and  encourages illegal drug use, marijuana growing and smoking,” Shane Sherman wrote in an email to the District of Invermere council, asking it to take “immediate steps” to deal with Chad’s.

The letter also notes the store’s owner is facing several charges stemming from a police raid at the Chad’s 420 location in Olds.

According to reports by the Olds Albertan, those include four counts of possession of prohibited weapons and a charge of knowingly promoting or selling instructional material for consuming or facilitating consumption of illicit drugs.

“A marijuana shop downtown will attract people from all the surrounding areas who smoke marijuana and engage in illegal drug use,” the email adds.

“The character of downtown Invermere will change very quickly when flocks of people will descend on to Invermere for illegal drugs, marijuana and drug paraphernalia.”

Another letter writer asked the district to pass a bylaw that would limit the shop’s hours, restrict its signage and advertising capabilities and ban the sale of any substances “causing a high or creating a mind altering state with the onus on the store to prove products are not in this category.”

“If the District can pass bylaws prohibiting idling in town and write letters to BC Hydro regarding nebulous EMR concerns, surely the District can swiftly adopt bylaws to protect the vulnerable youth in our town from the proven dangers of drugs and drug culture that these types of businesses promote,” added letter writer Rob Orchiston.

Mayor Gerry Taft, however, says the district has very little power when it comes to restricting businesses within its borders.

“We’ve gone ahead and received a legal opinion on this issue, and there’s not a lot of things we can do here,” he told council during an October 11 meeting.

While a business may have its license revoked if its owner is convicted of criminal activities “we can’t do it for concerns or worries.”

Columbia Valley Staff Sgt. Marko Shehovac, at the meeting to deliver a quarterly update, said RCMP are planning to “drop by and introduce ourselves.” While he declined to speak further in front of media, he did say he has “concerns” about the business.

That concern is no surprise to store owner Chad Wentworth, who says he’s seen similar reactions in “80 to 90 per cent of the places we’ve opened.”

“I might be a little bit surprised, just because it’s B.C.” he told The Valley Echo. “I thought it would be a little bit more relaxed here, but maybe not.”

Wentworth also called the charges he’s facing in Alberta “weak,” and said he believes they’ll likely be tossed out of court before the case goes to trial.

“They charged us with a weapons charge for having a tobacco grinder that has five spikes on it,” he said. “It’s very, very weak. We’re not too worried about it.”

He’s inviting those with concerns to drop by the store before making up their minds.

“See how we have it set up, see the products that we carry,” he said.

“Maybe people will realize that we’re not carrying anything that serves purposes for the harder drugs like crack and cocaine or stuff like that. It’s just medical marijuana, tobacco, that kind of stuff.”