Pubdate: Sat, 29 Aug 2015
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2015 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Tiffany Crawford and Jeff Lee
Page: A15


Fewer than 10 per cent of applicants will win city's permission to
sell pot: councillor

A Vancouver city councillor says that when the dust settles, fewer
than one in 10 people or groups who have applied for the city's new
coveted medical marijuana business licences will be able to open.

On Friday the city said it had received an astonishing 176
applications for so-called legal dispensaries, well up from the more
than 110 now operating illegally in Vancouver. Of those applications,
69 were from groups describing themselves as compassion clubs, which
would qualify for greatly reduced business licence fees of $ 1,000.
Those applying for retail licences have to pay a $30,000 fee.

But Coun. Kerry Jang said he doesn't think more than 15 or 16 of the
proposed dispensaries will be able to meet the city's stringent
requirements, which include not locating near schools, parks,
community centres, in entertainment districts or the Downtown
Eastside, or near each other.

"With the processes we've set up, the vast majority will be gone,"
said Jang. "At least two-thirds will have to shut down, and my guess
is that when all is said and done, perhaps as many as 16 might get

Indeed, those requirements include the fact the city will reject any
applicant who has had a criminal conviction for possession of
marijuana in the last five years.

Andreea Toma, the city's chief licence inspector, said city laws
prevent her from issuing a licence to anyone who has been convicted of
an offence related to the business they want to operate.

"Because this is a marijuana related use, if there is a
marijuana-related conviction within the last five years, we would have
to deny it (the application)," she said.

In June, Vancouver became the first city in Canada to regulate illegal
marijuana dispensaries. The aim was to weed out for profit
dispensaries in favour of non-profit compassion clubs.

It was also in response to the high number of medical pot dispensaries
that have popped up in Vancouver while a challenge to the new federal
government rules on medical marijuana plays out in the courts.

Despite harsh warnings from Ottawa not to license the illegal
marijuana industry, Mayor Gregor Robertson's Vision Vancouver council
said it had to bring some clarity and regulation to what was fast
becoming a problem industry.

The deadline for applications was Aug. 21, and any medical marijuana
businesses that did not apply must close their doors or the city warns
it enforcement action.

Toma said staff will now assess the applications in three stages.
Firstly, they will have to comply with zoning and districting
regulations. Some of the those regulations will relate to whether the
medical pot shop is located in a permitted commercial zone, and
whether it is a minimum of 300 metres from schools, community centres,
neighbourhood houses, places that serve vulnerable youth, and other
medical marijuana-related businesses.

Toma said each applicant will receive within one to two months a
letter with zoning evaluation results and next steps. Applicants that
meet zoning requirements will move on to Stages Two and Three, which
consist of inspections and the city's standard development permit and
business licence processes.

Businesses that do not meet the Stage One zoning requirements

will take will need to close within six months, but have six months to
reapply with a new location that meets all city zoning

Toma said it may take up to a year for applications to be assessed and
approved, and for shop owners to meet city building and inspection

Donald Briere, a marijuana activist and owner of 17 medical marijuana
dispensaries in B.C. and two in Ontario, said he applied for nine
corporate licences for his Weeds Glass + Gifts locations in Vancouver.
The rest of his B.C. stores are located in North Vancouver, Abbotsford
and elsewhere. In a recent application for a search warrant for one of
his Vancouver stores, police alleged that Briere has a lengthy
criminal record, has been selling pot to 16-year-olds, and claims to
have been threatened by the Hells Angels. Despite the allegations,
Briere says he doesn't want anything to do with gangs, and he's
confident that he will meet the requirements for the licences.

He said two of his nine locations would have to be moved because the
locations do not fall within the 300- metre regulations.

Briere was pleased that so many had applied.

"It reminds me of a land or gold rush - like those old movies where
there are guys on the wagon trains and a government agent fires a gun
and they all run to stake their land," he said.

Another well-known marijuana activist, Jodie Emery, who did not apply
for a business licence because she does not own a dispensary, thought
the number of applicants would be higher, though she noted that
dispensary owners are having a difficult time finding a willing landlord.

Once the city gets through all three stages, there will "probably be
about 100 or so remaining, basically the same number as the city is
currently familiar with, which isn't too many, in my opinion," Emery

Emery, who is married to "Prince of Pot" Marc Emery, said she didn't
think the market had become oversaturated with dispensaries, adding
that there is clearly a growing demand.
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