Pubdate: Tue, 05 May 2015
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2015 Times Colonist
Author: Bill Cleverley
Page: A1
Note: 6 May 2015 Times Colonist - Cannabis Buyers OK with licensing 
curbs: Ted Smith of the Cannabis Buyers Club says the group embraces 
licensing requirements by the City of Victoria for dispensaries of 
medical marijuana. His stance was not clearly portrayed in a story on 
page A1 of Tuesday's edition.


City Staff Recommending Operators Be Required to Comply With Business Licensing

Victoria city staff are recommending using business licence 
regulations to crack down on the budding problem of firms selling 
medical marijuana.

In the past year, there has been an explosion of marijuana-related 
businesses. Storefronts selling marijuana are clearly prohibited by 
federal laws, says a report going to Victoria councillors Thursday.

"It's beyond frustrating," Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said of the 
murky waters surrounding regulation of marijuana-related businesses.

"We can't refuse people a business licence for doing legitimate 
business activities. Selling marijuana is not a legitimate business 
activity, but being a consultant is."

A year ago, there were only four marijuana-related businesses 
operating in the city. Now there are 18, including businesses that 
sell drug paraphernalia and provide medical advice or consulting 
relating to the use of medical marijuana.

Victoria police and city bylaw enforcement officers say they receive 
a variety of complaints about some of these businesses, including an 
increase in unwelcome foot traffic, odour, questions about the safety 
of food products being sold and other health issues as well as 
exposure of youth to the sale of marijuana.

"VicPD is also concerned about the possible infiltration of organized 
crime and the lack of effective or reasonable security measures at 
these businesses for both the protection of employees and robbery 
prevention," the staff report says.

The report says the city has few options. It can enforce its business 
bylaws - ticketing and ultimately going to court; or it could follow 
Vancouver's lead and amend existing bylaws to deal specifically with 
these businesses.

Victoria staff are recommending that rather than waiting for a 
complaint, bylaw officers investigate the sector and force operators 
to comply with business licence regulations or face ticketing and/or 
suspension or revocation of licences.

Businesses found supplying medical marijuana directly to customers 
would be in violation of a business licence or would not qualify for 
a licence and presumably have to shut down.

"We can say, 'You've got a business licence to be a consultant and 
sell pipes. We see you're selling marijuana. You're in contravention 
of your business licence,' " Helps said.

Just how effective it would be is open to debate. To revoke a 
business licence, city council would first have to hold a public hearing.

Ted Smith, who began the Cannabis Buyers Club about 19 years ago, 
operating as a non-profit on Johnson Street, said he has never had a 
city business licence and suspects if the city follows through with 
the staff recommendation, there will be resistance.

"We'd probably end up in court fighting it somehow, if they were 
coming in and being all threatening with fines and stuff like that," he said.

"We wouldn't just back away. We've been raided at our store four 
times in the past. It's been years now, but we've had the gun to our 
head before. We're going to stand our ground for patients because we 
know how important our organization is to them," Smith said.

Vancouver hopes to create a new business-licence category, charge a 
$30,000 fee, ban pot shops from certain areas and require them to be 
300 metres away from schools, community centres and each other.

Vancouver city staff say the hope is to ensure public safety while 
providing access to medical marijuana. Council referred the proposal 
to a public hearing.

But the federal government says rather than attempting to regulate 
pot dispensaries, Vancouver should shut them down.

"While some in Canada seek to make marijuana available in stores, 
just like alcohol and cigarettes, this irresponsible approach sends a 
terrible message to our youth and would make it easier for them to 
buy and smoke marijuana," federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose said 
in a letter to Vancouver council. "Storefront sales of marijuana are 
illegal and, under our government, will remain illegal."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom