Weed

Shady Ottawa Dispensaries Close Shop Following VICE Investigation

The chain was accused of exploiting young workers while raking in millions of dollars.

by Manisha Krishnan
Nov 30 2017, 5:39pm

A WeeMedical on Rideau Street shut own just after VICE published an investigation. Photo by Matt Gergyek

Several Ottawa weed dispensaries have shut down after their shady practices were exposed in a recent VICE investigation.

The VICE story focused on a national chain of dispensaries that go by the names Green Tree, WeeMedical, CannaGreen, Herbal Leaf, and WeeCare Med. They are all believed to be owned by the same group of people—a man named Robert Clarke, and a BC-based mother and son May Joan Liu and Justin Liu.

Former employees told VICE management recruited young workers, assuring them that they weren’t likely to be arrested in raids and that if they were arrested the company would pay for their legal fees. That was a lie, according to four former workers who were arrested and say they were never provided with legal help. The dispensaries are also accused of selling moldy weed, and forcing employees to work long hours with no breaks and in some cases no heating. One employee said she was robbed five times while working for the chain, but was forbidden from calling the police.

According to VICE’s sources, the cluster of Ottawa stores were the most profitable, with each raking in $1,000-$15,000 a day—and at least $750,000 a month total. May Joan Liu’s home is $6.2 million West Vancouver mansion, while former Ottawa workers said Clarke favoured a Rolex watch, diamond chains, and luxury cars. One of the shops in Clarke’s other dispensary chain, Limelife, was busted by Vancouver police for allegedly being tied to the Hells Angels.

VICE visited seven Ottawa stores Wednesday. Six of them were closed, though two appear to have closed prior to the VICE investigation, which was published November 16.

Green Tree’s head office phone number was disconnected after VICE reached out for comment during the investigation. An email request for comment sent out Thursday did not receive a response.

The Green Tree locations on Preston Street and Montreal Road both shut down very recently, according to people living in the area. A WeeMedical on Rideau Street also shut down about two weeks ago, a neighbour said.

All exterior signs were removed from the Preston Street location, which former employees say was one of the most profitable shops, along with the WeeMedical on Rideau. The Preston Street space was rented out by Clarke. When Clarke finally returned VICE’s request for comment, he flew into a tirade, shouting “Don’t call the fucking landlord, don’t call anyone, you fucking clown. You’re a fucking idiot. Fuck off, go report on something that matters.”

The WeeMedical on St. Laurent Boulevard was also closed Wednesday, with exterior signs removed and a shattered window. Furniture remained inside.

One Bank Street location, formerly a Herbal Leaf, was open Wednesday. It is now called Green Oasis. An employee in the store, who refused to give VICE his name, said Green Oasis is not associated with Clarke or any of his dispensaries. He also said he had heard about the VICE investigation, but wasn’t concerned about closing anytime in the near future.

Former employees told VICE the shops worked like a game of whack-a-mole, shutting down or getting raided and re-opening with a different name.

—with files from Matt Gergyek

Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.