Pubdate: Thu, 25 Jun 2015
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2015 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Laura Kane
Page: A2


VANCOUVER - The City of Vancouver has become the first in Canada to
regulate illegal marijuana dispensaries, with the mayor saying it's a
common-sense approach after the federal government's failure to
provide proper policies.

"We're faced with a tough situation, a complicated situation," Gregor
Robertson said Wednesday after councillors voted 8-3 to impose new

"We have this proliferation of dispensaries that must be dealt

The new rules mean dispensaries must now pay a $30,000 licensing fee,
be located 300 metres from schools, community centres and each other,
and some shops will be banned from certain areas.

But in an unexpected move, the city voted to create a two tiered
licensing system, allowing non-profit compassion clubs to pay a fee of
just $1,000.

Coun. Kerry Jang said the clubs provide other services such as
nutritional and psychological counselling and help people transition
from marijuana to other medicine if possible.

He suggested the clubs could funnel the money saved from paying a
lower fee toward the creation of addiction programs.

Jang said he was disappointed that some councillors opposed the
regulations without putting forward amendments, saying they had "stuck
their heads in the sand."

Coun. Geoff Meggs had strong words in council for federal Health
Minister Rona Ambrose, who has urged the city to uphold Canada's laws
that make retail marijuana sales illegal.

"Wake up. You are completely out of touch with the realities on the
ground," he said.

The city has blamed Ottawa's restrictive medical marijuana laws for
the rise of pot dispensaries in Vancouver - to 94 from fewer than 20
just three years ago.

Ambrose said in an emailed statement that she was "deeply
disappointed" with the decision.

"Marijuana is neither an approved drug nor medicine in Canada, and
Health Canada does not endorse its use," she said.

"Storefronts selling marijuana are illegal, and under this
Conservative government will remain illegal. We expect the police to
enforce the law."

Jamie Shaw of B.C. Compassion Club Society, Vancouver's oldest
dispensary, which would now be forced to move, called the new
regulations a "historic move."

"It's actually great that they're encouraging some dispensaries to be
a little bit more patient-focused and patient-centred while still not
actually outlawing more recreational-minded ones," she said.

Council's decision comes after four days of public hearings that drew
more than 180 registered speakers, many of whom complained about a
proposed ban on edible products such as brownies and cookies.
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