Vancouver proposes tougher rules for medical pot dispensaries
Tamsyn Burgmann, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, April 22, 2015 3:14PM PDT
Last Updated Thursday, April 23, 2015 12:28PM PDT
VANCOUVER - Tough, new zoning and business-licence rules may soon be rolled out for medical marijuana retailers in Vancouver, with one prominent seller hoping the regulations become a national model.
City staff plan to present to the mayor and council next week their framework, which could set a precedent when applied by the municipality that's said to have the fastest budding industry in Canada.
“The city has no jurisdiction to regulate the sale of marijuana, but it does have clear jurisdiction to regulate how and where businesses operate in our city,” said a news release issued by staff Wednesday.
“Up to now there has been a lack of clear and transparent regulatory framework from the federal government.”
The proposal aims to balance the needs of those accessing medical cannabis with community safety, security and aesthetics, the city announced.
The rules would require retailers to notify the public before opening a store, pay a $30,000 licensing fee and be located at least 300 metres from schools, community centres and other marijuana-related businesses.
The Vancouver police department, school board, health authority and business-improvement groups provided input.
More than 80 medical marijuana stores have opened in the last two years, and the city noted that 20 of those launched during the last four months alone.
Marijuana advocate Dana Larsen, who has run the Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary for seven years, said in an interview that no other Canadian city has developed comprehensive regulations.
He said the local industry welcomes oversight and is optimistic any kinks can be worked out.
“I'm hoping what comes out of this is an example for the rest of Canada on how you can properly regulate cannabis dispensaries,” said Larsen, who is also vice-president of the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries.
“If they wanted to crack down, they would have cracked down years ago and not let it proliferate the way it has.”
Vancouver city councillors have previously said the city has lost patience with the federal government, which upholds criminalization and opposes legitimizing dispensaries.
Larsen said he was aware of only one dispensary in the country currently operating with a specific business licence for medical marijuana, and it's located in West Kelowna,B.C.
Toronto has about nine dispensaries, he said, some of which might have business licences but didn't apply to sell medical marijuana.
Larsen said more than half the dispensaries in Canada are located in Vancouver, but more are opening in B.C communities like Victoria, Nanaimo, Grand Forks and Parksville, as well as in Calgary and Saskatoon.
Only about 20 dispensaries operate outside of B.C., most of them in Ontario and Quebec, he said.
Larsen said his facility is located within 300 metres of a community centre and he hopes the rules don't call for a total ban but instead apply on a case-by-case basis.
“I would hope that after seven years being in the community with no problems, that we could be grandfathered in,” he said.
The city's new release said a public hearing may be held to draw additional comment.
The city's first marijuana-related business opened in 1997.