Pubdate: Thu, 06 Aug 2015
Source: Vancouver Courier (CN BC)
Copyright: 2015 Vancouver Courier
Author: Mike Howell


The City of Vancouver is holding private information sessions for
current and potential pot shop operators to "learn how to make a
successful medical marijuana business licence application" as it
embarks on its plan to become Canada's first city to regulate the
illegal dispensaries.

The city is advertising the sessions on its website, saying "staff
will explain everything you need to know about the new regulations and
how to successfully apply for permits and licences to run a
marijuana-related business."

The first session, which allowed a maximum of 75 people in a room at
city hall, was held July 30, with two more planned for Aug. 10
(already full) and 13. The Courier attended the first hour of the July
30 session to hear a presentation from Andreea Toma, the city's chief
licence inspector, but was told to leave for the question and answer
portion because participants didn't sign up anticipating media would
be in the room.

Toma outlined much of what has already been made public about the new
bylaws, which city council approved in June after a marathon public
hearing. The city has made it clear its aim is to regulate the
businesses - not the product - by implementing $30,000 annual licence
fees ($1,000 for non-profit "compassion clubs"), criminal record
checks and zoning regulations that prohibit pot shops from operating
within 300 metres of schools, community centres and each other.

Under the new regulations, applicants have to undergo a series of
steps and reviews before being granted a business licence, with the
first requirement to have an application completed by Aug. 21. Toma
emphasized the need for operators to not allow minors in the shops or
advertise to them and sign a "good neighbour agreement."

"The more complaints we get against you, the more you'll see of us,"
she told the crowd, which included marijuana advocates Don Briere,
David Malmo Levine and Jodie Emery. "So it's really in your best
interest to do your best to manage that."

Briere, who co-owns nine Weeds Glass and Gifts, told the Courier
during a break in the session that he still doesn't agree with the
$30,000 annual licence fee, saying casinos and liquor stores pay about
10 per cent or less for a licence.

"How is that fair in any way, shape or form?" he said. "If they want
$30,000 each for, say, 10 stores, that's $300,000. It's just not
feasible. The rents are high, you want to pay a decent wage for the
people working there and the product is expensive. It's $2,000 a pound."

The $30,000 fee has Briere and his partners considering turning their
dispensaries into compassion clubs to avoid the expensive cost of a
licence. But in adhering to the city's definition of a compassion
club, Briere would have to register his stores under the province's
Society Act and offer at least two health services for 60 per cent of
operating hours or more per month.

"They're forcing us to do it," he said.

Realtor Setti Java, who attended the session, said she was there on
behalf of a client interested in setting up a dispensary. Java said
her client is a university professor and willing to pay the $30,000
fee. She said she didn't anticipate any problems getting a licence.
The bigger problem, she said, is finding a landlord willing to rent a
space for a dispensary.

"I have called so many places and they say, 'no,'" she said, noting
the 300-metre restriction is also proving a problem to locate a
suitable storefront.

Norma, who wouldn't provide her surname, said she opened a dispensary
six weeks ago on East Hastings. She wouldn't provide the address but
said her plan is to expand the business by setting up a cannabis
"educational centre" with a doctor on the premise every Thursday.

Regardless of what Norma does with the business, she said the fact the
federal government still continues to consider marijuana illegal -
except for patients approved to use the drug - is causing her
problems. Recently, two employees stole cash and marijuana from the

"The police said there's nothing we can do, it's still illegal," she
said, noting a $30,000 fee doesn't include "police

The city will not say how many applications it has received since
council passed the new bylaws in June but estimates there are close to
100 pot shops operating in Vancouver.
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MAP posted-by: Matt