Pubdate: Sun, 26 Apr 2015
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2015 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Laura Kane
Page: 14


Mayor says 'no' to health minister's suggestion Vancouver shut down
marijuana dispensaries

SURREY, B.C. - Vancouver's mayor has snuffed out a suggestion made by
federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose that the city shut medical
marijuana dispensaries, rather than regulate them.

"No," Gregor Robertson told reporters when asked Friday if the city
would comply.

The dispute between the city and federal minister over Vancouver's
plans to regulate the booming medical pot-trade has heightened
throughout the week, threatening to turn into a standoff, as Robertson
and Ambrose appeared at separate events in Metro Vancouver.

It began Wednesday when city staff announced they will present a
report to council that recommends regulation of the flourishing
medical pot industry, enforcing a $30,000 licensing fee and requiring
the shops to be at least 300 metres from schools.

Ambrose responded on Thursday with a strongly worded letter to
Robertson warning that "normalizing" marijuana will increase use and
addiction, especially among youth.

She followed up on Friday, telling reporters in Surrey that the city
must re-think its plans to discuss regulating medicinal pot shops at
an upcoming council meeting.

"The issue for me is a public-health issue. First of all, marijuana
dispensaries are illegal," she said. "Marijuana is not a medicine. It
is not approved as a medicine by Health Canada, nor has it gone
through any of the typical rigorous clinical trials that are necessary
for medicine to be approved."

In March 2014, Vancouver police Chief Jim Chu said his department
didn't consider the enforcement of medical marijuana dispensaries a
priority. He said police were intent on capturing violent drug
traffickers who posed a danger to the community, and the dispensaries
didn't fit that priority. Robertson responded to Ambrose Friday,
telling reporters the courts have ruled on the issue, and all the city
can do is regulate the businesses like others because it can't let
them operate in a vacuum.

That wouldn't be fair to other businesses and it wouldn't be
appropriate for kids to have easy access to marijuana, said Robertson.

"We want to be sure there are some good solid guidelines here," he

"Ultimately, the federal government is going to need to decide what
courses of action they're going to take with medical marijuana and
marijuana in general."

Pot dispensaries have popped up in cities a cross Canada, but no where
has the growth been as accelerated than in Vancouver. The number of
dispensaries in the city has multiplied from six to 80 in two years.
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