Pubdate: Sat, 09 May 2015
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2015 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Laura Kane
Page: A22


City Council Will Draft Rules to Require Licences, Could Impose Fees

Victoria city council has voted to follow Vancouver's example and 
regulate pot shops in the provincial capital.

Council voted Thursday to ask staff to draft business licensing and 
zoning regulations, which could impose fees and new rules on 
security, record keeping and selling to minors.

Mayor Lisa Helps said she thought it was a "good sign" when Victoria 
police Insp. Scott McGregor told council at the meeting that the 
department doesn't object to regulation.

"We have a very effective and dedicated police force who are (focused 
on) organized crime and hard drugs," she said. "They don't have time 
and energy to be running around busting 18-year-olds selling 
marijuana across the counter."

Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose has called on Vancouver to halt 
its plan to regulate pot shops. In letters to the city, she wrote 
there is no "grey zone" when it comes to medical marijuana, that 
selling it across the counter is illegal and that police must enforce the law.

But Helps said there is a grey area and that police have said they've 
tried to bust shops suspected of selling pot, but the courts have 
tossed the charges.

"There's a fundamental disconnect between federal legislation and 
what the courts are willing to prosecute. And so, municipalities are 
left to plug the holes with our arguably ineffective and 
not-strong-enough tools."

The city has jurisdiction to regulate land use, but not the selling 
of products. However, Helps said she hopes that stricter 
record-keeping requirements will limit the flow of illegally grown 
marijuana into the stores.

Helps added she is especially concerned that the unregulated sale of 
pot is easing access for youth, who she said can suffer from 
early-onset schizophrenia and psychosis.

As for whether a strongly worded letter from Ambrose would affect 
Victoria's plans, Helps replied, "No, of course not."

Coun. Ben Isitt introduced the motion to draft new regulations, which 
passed 7-1. He said staff are expected to take several months to come 
up with them before the public will have an opportunity to weigh in 
during a town-hall meeting.

He said he expects the regulations to be similar to those proposed in 
Vancouver, where city council is considering a $30,000 licensing fee 
and strict rules about where stores can be located.

Isitt said prohibition hasn't worked and youth have been getting 
their hands on marijuana for decades, even before the number of 
dispensaries in Victoria increased to 18 from four in the past year. 
"I hope the federal government will recognize that the war on drugs 
has failed and public opinion in Canada supports the regulation and 
taxation of marijuana."
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