Pubdate: Thu, 25 Jun 2015
Source: Prince George Citizen (CN BC)
Copyright: 2015 Prince George Citizen
Author: Laura Kane
Page: 7


Vancouver has become the first city in Canada to regulate illegal 
marijuana dispensaries, a move that has "deeply disappointed" the 
federal government but was declared a common-sense approach by the mayor.

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

"We have this proliferation of dispensaries that must be dealt with," he said.

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

Health Minister Rona Ambrose had sent strongly worded letters to the 
city and police warning against the plan. On Wednesday, she said she 
was disappointed with the decision to regulate an illegal industry.

"Marijuana is neither an approved drug nor medicine in Canada and 
Health Canada does not endorse its use," Ambrose said in a statement. 
"Storefronts selling marijuana are illegal and under this 
Conservative government will remain illegal. We expect the police to 
enforce the law."

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

But the city also voted to create a two-tiered licensing system, 
allowing compassion clubs to pay a fee of just $1,000.

To qualify as a compassion club, a dispensary must be non-profit, 
serve members and provide other health services such as massage 
therapy or acupuncture, and be a member of the Canadian Association 
of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries.

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

"That's what we should be encouraging," he said.

"Like any kind of drug, you want to get off it eventually. That's the 
approach we took."

Don Briere, owner of Vancouver's largest marijuana chain Weeds, 
praised the city for its "courage" in approving regulations, but 
called the two-tiered system "discrimination."

Briere said it's unfair that his businesses must pay $29,000 more 
when they also serve medical pot patients. He said he planned to talk 
to a lawyer and had heard other owners were doing the same.

"If there's a class-action lawsuit, I obviously have to join," he 
said. "It's already being talked about." Jamie Shaw with Vancouver's 
oldest dispensary, B.C. Compassion Club Society, 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.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom