Easy access to Vancouver pot shops ending soon: city councillor
Published Monday, September 28, 2015 6:59PM PDT
Last Updated Monday, September 28, 2015 7:32PM PDT
Buying marijuana from a Vancouver dispensary can be as simple as showing ID and filling out a form, but that easy access could be going up in smoke soon.
CTV News tested what it takes to access pot from 10 dispensaries around the city this month, and found the rules are all over the map. While some refused to sell marijuana without a note from a medical doctor, others were willing to offer memberships for a fee.
“I have a doctor upstairs right now. If you want to pay $65 I can get you a card and a free gram of weed,” one employee offered.
Another pot shop said customers could fill out a form and the owner, who was identified as a naturopath, would sign it. One dispensary said all it required was an empty prescription drug bottle.
City councillor Kerry Jang said those lax requirements are one of the issues Vancouver will be addressing when it starts issuing dispensary licences in December.
“You can almost say anything in some of these shops and get pot. That’s not the intent,” Jang said. “It’s for folks who have a doctor’s prescription.”
There are currently about 120 dispensaries in Vancouver, but Jang estimates only 15 to 20 will meet the city’s licensing requirements, which exclude owners with criminal records and ban shops from operating within 300 metres of schools and community centres.
Stressed and Depressed Dispensary owner David Malmo Levine is among the 176 people who have applied for a proper licence. He said he already insists his customers have a doctor’s note.
“I’m not worried about losing a few customers. I want to jump through all the hoops so that I end up being one of the dispensaries that remains open,” he said.
Vancouver police said as far as they’re concerned, it doesn’t matter how lax or strict marijuana dispensaries’ rules are; they’re all illegal under federal law.
Const. Brian Montague noted that shops aren’t even legally allowed to sell to people who hold Health Canada exemptions for medical marijuana.
“The bottom line is if a dispensary is selling marijuana they are doing something illegal,” Montague said. “Regardless of what someone shows them, regardless if they have a licence from Health Canada, regardless if they have a prescription from a doctor, it does not matter.”
Police still have no plans to crack down on pot shops, however.
Montague said police will continue to focus their limited resources on other crimes unless they hear a particular dispensary is selling to children, linked to gangs, or posing a public safety issue.
With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Lisa Rossington