Pubdate: Thu, 23 Apr 2015
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2015 Postmedia Network Inc.
Authors: Lori Culbert and Brian Morton
Page: A7


Dispensaries and others welcome regulation, but proposed costs deemed

Travis Williams works in the Cannabis Culture lounge on Davie Street,
which does not sell weed but charges a $5 fee for people to bring in
and smoke their own. A separate marijuana dispensary, run by Eden
Medicinal Society, is located in the same building with a door that
opens into the hazy lounge.

The businesses appear to violate two of the city's proposed new
regulations: that two marijuana-related business cannot operate within
300 metres of each other and that they cannot be located within 300
metres of a school.

Lord Roberts Elementary in the West End is just 180 metres from the
two outfits on Davie.

But Williams said the lounge and dispensary, located on the second
floor of the building, are out of sight from schoolchildren, and
argued as medical marijuana becomes more mainstream it should be
available in all neighbourhoods, not just commercial strips.

"I understand why they want it to be kept out of children's eyes - I
have kids myself - but our lounge is not on the ground floor," he
said, while smoking a joint. "If it is going to be acceptable and
legal, then it needs to not be hidden."

Cannabis Culture is run by Vancouver's so-called Prince of Pot, Marc
Emery, who Williams predicted would be vocal against the city's new
proposed rules.

"The whole point of the lounges is that we are trying to show that
smoking weed is a social experience =C2=85 it is much safer than drinking=

alcohol in a bar," added Williams, a former bartender. "I don't see
why there needs to be that many regulations on pot."

Cannabis Culture has run a lounge for years on Hastings. The West End
location - outfitted with brown leather chairs and a long bar that
holds bongs instead of beer taps - has been open for only a week.

The city's proposed $30,000 licensing fee is unfair, Williams argued,
compared with the lower fees charged to other businesses. He didn't
think the fee would necessarily force marijuana businesses to close,
but guessed some might choose to do so out of protest.

"It is a ridiculously high cost they are asking and I don't know why
it needs to be that high," Williams added.

Meanwhile, two of Vancouver's non-profit marijuana dispensaries
welcome the city's move, but also believe the $30,000 fee might be too
high. They hope the city can be convinced to change the

"We think it's a great first step," Jamie Shaw, president of the
Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries and spokeswoman
for the B.C. Compassion Club Society, said of the regulations. "We've
been asking for the city to regulate cannabis for a long time and
we've asked for anybody to do it for 18 years. We might have some
concerns, but usually these proposals are never accepted exactly the
way they are. When we work with the city, we can probably work most of
those (concerns) out and come to some sort of agreement."

Shaw said it makes sense to have a licensing fee, although the $30,000
figure "is probably one of the details we'll have to work out and come
to some sort of agreement on."

This cost would be a concern for a non-profit like the B.C. Compassion
Club Society, she said, although it might be justified for a
for-profit dispensary.

"We'd have to find the money somewhere. Right now, we put our money
into acupuncture, massage treatments, herbalists, naturopaths,
nutritionists, so there's a lot of treatments we offer. That ($30,000)
would definitely cut into our ability to do that."

Shaw also said the stipulation that dispensaries must be at least 300
metres from a school would be problematic because they're very close
to Stratford Hall, an independent school.

"We look forward to engaging with the city and seeing what we come up
with," she said.

Dana Larsen, a director with the Vancouver-based non-profit Medicinal
Cannabis Dispensary and vice-president of the Canadian Association of
Medical Cannabis Dispensaries, agreed that regulation is necessary but
that the $30,000 fee is too high.

"First, we welcome regulation," Larsen said. "We want there to be
rules, bylaws and structures in place. We think it's a very positive
step the city's bringing forward. They're not talking about how to get
rid of us, they're talking about reasonable regulation.

"But there are some things that are worrisome that we hope the city
will negotiate and move on. Thirty thousand dollars seems like a very
high fee for a business like this. We're happy to pay a premium on our
business licence, but that seems pretty high to me. So we'll certainly
be bringing our feedback to the city."

Larsen said the requirement that dispensaries be at least 300 metres
from schools or community centres is also worrisome because one of
their two dispensaries that's been open seven years is close to a
community centre.

"I would be disappointed," Larsen said, "if we were forced to move
from there. That (requirement) would adversely affect one of our
dispensaries where we haven't had any problems or complaints. (The
city) might allow some grandfathering, perhaps impose those rules on
some of the newer ones opening."