Port Coquitlam targets illegal dispensaries with bylaw amendment
Sarah MacDonald and Kendra Mangione, CTV Vancouver
Published Saturday, November 26, 2016 6:30PM PST
As Port Coquitlam prepares to change a bylaw putting more onus on landlords, advocates of marijuana dispensaries say the changes are being made specifically to target them.
On Monday, city council will move to change an existing zoning bylaw, to allow punitive measures against landlords found renting out their properties for illegal purposes.
If approved, the amended bylaw would mean owners of residential and commercial properties could be fined for what their tenants are doing.
"Currently, our bylaws only allow us to give fines to the businesses if they're doing something illegal or running without a business licence," Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore told CTV News Saturday.
"What we're going to do on Monday night is keep that, but also include the land owners. We think the land owners have some responsibility in ensuring what goes on in their building actually is according to bylaws and the laws of this country."
Moore said the city has had complaints from neighbours of businesses conducting illegal activities, including the sale of cannabis, but all the businesses have to do is pay a fine, nothing prevents them from operating.
Under the amendment, the city would first issue fines to landlords found breaching the bylaw. After five years of non-compliance, the city would reserve the right to sell the property and keep the proceeds.
Moore said the amended bylaw is an attempt to have more control over what's going on, by putting some of the onus on landlords.
While Moore did not say that the bylaw is meant to target residents selling cannabis, he did admit that those renting out their property to marijuana dispensaries.
"They don't have a business licence, they can't get a business licence because their operation is illegal, so yes it would affect them," he said.
Affected landlords would include those renting to Jodie and Marc Emery, advocates who own a dispensary in a strip mall next to Lions Park.
The Port Coquitlam franchise of Cannabis Culture was raided by police on Thursday based on evidence that the business was violating the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. No arrests were made, but police said they seized some evidence in their investigation into the business.
Cannabis Culture's owners are also receiving heft fines daily for operating without a business licence.
They're given a $150 ticket every day for the location, but Jodie Emery said they do not plan to shutter any of their Cannabis Culture locations because "we believe strongly in the right to access cannabis for all Canadian adults."
She called the fines "part of the cost of doing business right now."
The Emerys are among Canada's most high-profile advocates for marijuana legalization, and some feel the changes are designed specifically to target those selling marijuana.
Jodie Emery called the bylaw changes "very disappointing," saying the dispensary she owns in the city "does no harm and helps a lot of people.
"We even raised $3,000 for veterans with a fundraiser the other day, so we feel we can give back and allow Port Coquitlam to benefit from the opportunity that exists," Emery said Saturday.
"But it sounds like the city, who has ignored our calls, wants to move in the opposite direction."
She said she'd requested a meeting with the mayor, but didn't get the opportunity to have the meeting. Instead, she said, her store has been visited by police several times. During one of those visits, officers took everything on site, she said.
The city has also parked a police cruiser in front of the store every day, "scaring customers away," she said. But she plans to keep the store open as long as possible.
"Civil disobedience has been a method we've used successfully to win all the marijuana law reform in this country, so by breaking the law to demonstrate the injustice of the law, we hope to win more people over to our side."
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Sarah MacDonald