Pubdate: Thu, 23 Apr 2015
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2015 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Laura Kane
Page: A6


VANCOUVER - The federal government is telling the City of Vancouver it
does not have the authority to legitimize pot with its proposal to
regulate "illegal" medical marijuana dispensaries.

Health Minister Rona Ambrose sent a letter to Vancouver Mayor Gregor
Robertson on Thursday saying she was "deeply concerned" by the city's
plans to discuss regulation at an upcoming council meeting.

"Marijuana is not an approved drug or medicine, and Health Canada does
not endorse its use," reads the letter obtained by The Canadian Press.

"Legitimizing and normalizing the use and sale of marijuana can have
only one effect: increasing marijuana use and addiction."

City staff will present a report to council on Tuesday recommending
regulating the booming medical pot industry. The rules would include a
$30,000 licensing fee and require the shops to be at least 300 metres
from schools, community centres and other dispensaries.

In the letter, the health minister says serious health risks are
associated with smoking marijuana. She argues "normalizing" pot could
mean more than tripling its use by youth. Ambrose writes that although
Canadian courts have required the government to allow access to
marijuana when authorized by a doctor, the law says this must be done
in a controlled way.

"These regulations are clear and do not provide municipalities with
the authority to legitimize the commercial sale of marijuana, which
remains an illegal substance," she said.

The government implemented the Marijuana for Medical Purposes (MMPR)
regulations in June 2013 with the aim of treating marijuana like other
narcotics used for medical purposes, she said.

"Storefronts and dispensaries do not operate within a 'grey zone,' and
the law is clear: they are illegal."

City manager Penny Ballem told reporters on Wednesday that the federal
approach had created "greyness and confusion," forcing the city to

Earlier Thursday, Councillor Kerry Jang said the MMPR, which prevent
people from growing their own marijuana, make it difficult for
patients to access medicine and have created public health and safety

"The federal approach is ideological. The city 's approach is public
health-based," he said. "We don't do this lightly. We're simply
responding to what the public has asked us to do, and the industry has
asked us to do."

The number of dispensaries in Vancouver has multiplied from six to
more than 80 in under two years.

Jang said the federal government has generally ignored the city's
requests to discuss the problems.

Advocates are divided on the new rules - even some within the same
household. "Prince of Pot" Marc Emery called regulation cynical and
unnecessary, while his wife and fellow pot activist Jodie said it's a
positive step toward legalization.

There's demand, if there's this kind of supply," said Jodie Emery.
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