Pubdate: Wed, 29 Apr 2015
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2015 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Laura Kane
Page: 6


REGULATION: Council Votes to Send Proposed Rules to Hearing As Ottawa Protests

Vancouver city council has decided to hold a public hearing on its 
proposal to regulate marijuana shops as the federal government made 
new demands Tuesday for the controversial plan to be dropped.

The vote was not unanimous, as Coun. Elizabeth Ball said the city has 
no right to regulate dispensaries for pot because it's illegal in Canada.

"We need to work with our federal government if we want to do things 
right. As a lawmaker, I can't say, 'Oh, I pick and choose this law.' 
I can't," Ball said outside council.

The city is considering new regulations for illegal pot dispensaries. 
The rules would include a $30,000 licensing fee and require stores to 
be 300 metres from schools, community centres and each other.

Since 2012, pot dispensaries have quadrupled in Vancouver, going from 
fewer than 20 to 80. The city has blamed the rise on federal law 
changes that restricted medical marijuana access.

The federal government has balked at the city's proposal and on 
Tuesday sent new letters to city council, police and health 
authorities warning against regulation.

Health Minister Rona Ambrose and Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney 
co-signed a letter to council and police warning that storefront 
sales of marijuana are illegal.

"Like the vast majority of Canadians, the government expects that 
police will enforce the laws of Canada as written," the letter said.

In a separate letter, Health Canada told Vancouver Coastal Health's 
chief medical health officer Dr. Patricia Daly that the federal laws 
are the "best model" for enabling patient access.

Daly told reporters that she fully supports the city's proposal and 
blames Health Canada's rules for the increase in pot shops. "They've 
created a program that has made it very, very difficult for people 
whose physicians feel they can benefit from this product (to access) 
it in a timely way," she said.

A staff report that city manager Penny Ballem presented to council 
will now go to a public hearing.

The report said less than a quarter of the 80 medical marijuana 
dispensaries would likely be allowed to stay where they are if the 
city approves the plan.

But the new rules could also create new capacity for pot shops under 
new commercial zoning bylaws, potentially increasing the number of 
stores to 100.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom