Pubdate: Tue, 16 Feb 2016
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Dan Fumano
Page: A3


Permits Denied: Board of Variance to hear 62 cases over nine months

Kris Mudliar has a date Wednesday at Vancouver city hall to make the
case that his business shouldn't go up in smoke over the question of a
few metres of sidewalk.

Mudliar, who owns Cannpassion Medicinal Cannabis Society, is scheduled
to be the first of dozens of marijuana dispensary owners to appear.

Appeals before the city's Board of Variance start this Wednesday, with
Mudliar and three other dispensary owners on the agenda. The appeals
are scheduled to continue at bimonthly meetings over the next nine

Different figures in the local bud business have different visions for
how the next year will play out.

Cannpassion, described by Mudliar as "Vancouver's Mom-and-Pop
dispensary," has operated on Kingsway in East Vancouver for four
years, well before the vast majority of the city's 100 or so
dispensaries popped up during the last year.

The shop was found to be in violation of city regulations released
last year, which dictated all marijuana-related businesses be at least
300 metres from schools and community centres.

The city measured the distance "as the crow flies," Mudliar said,
determining Cannpassion was 296 metres from a private high school -
four metres under the minimum acceptable distance.

Mudliar said if the distance is measured along roads or sidewalks,
it's more than 500 metres. That's the argument he'll present Wednesday.

The Board of Variance, which regularly hears appeals on decisions made
under bylaws covering everything from parking to trees to zoning and
development, meets at city hall and its sessions are open to the public.

The city received 176 applications from prospective pot shop owners
last year, and earlier this month issued development permits to the 14
deemed to be in compliance with zoning regulations.

The next step for those 14 permit-holders will be to apply for a
business licence, Vancouver director of licensing Andreea Toma told
The Province last month, adding the city's first dispensary licences
could be issued this spring.

Following the initial rejection, 62 applicants, including Mudliar,
filed appeals.

Mudliar praised the people working at the Board of Variance office,
who he said are stressed out right now, extremely busy, and working
very hard.

"It's pretty crazy and it's very stressful right now with what's going
on," Mudliar said.

"I do understand where they're coming from, and why they're doing
this, and that's why I want to be able to help and work with the city
and not just fight them."

The board is expected to deliver decisions the same day the appeals
are heard, city spokesman Jag Sandhu said. Applicants rejected by the
board must close their stores within six months.

"After six months, the city can use a range of enforcement tools,
including fines and legal action," Sandhu said.

But the owner of the city's largest chain of dispensaries said he has
no intention of closing any time soon, regardless of the board's
decision on any of his appeals. "I can see a big can of worms opening
up here," said Don Briere, who operates Weeds Glass and Gifts
locations not only around Vancouver but on the Sunshine Coast, the
Fraser Valley, and Toronto.

Vancouver refused eight applications for Weeds locations, and Briere
has appealed each of them, with the first set for Wednesday.

Briere said he worries about his staff of 70, whom he described as
"good, hard-working, honest, taxpaying people."

"We're ready for a fight," Briere said.

"We are already preparing to file lawsuits against the city, city
councillors, everybody. We are going to file lawsuits against everybody."

Chuck Varabioff, whose B.C. Pain Society is also the subject of an
appeal slated for Wednesday, said he and Briere "look at things

"Unlike some of these other people - and you can quote me on this," he
said, "I will never file a lawsuit against the city, even if things
don't go my way."

Even if the Liberal federal government eventually follows through on
its commitment to legalize and regulate marijuana sales, Varabioff
said, the city still has authority to regulate how and where those
sales take place.

"If you piss off the city now, you'd have no hope in hell of getting a
licence, even if and when it's legal," he said.

Varabioff said city staff he has worked with so far have been
"extremely helpful," and he is confident his appeal will succeed.

David Brown, of the Vancouver-based marijuana website,

"I suspect there is going to be a bit of a rude awakening for many
people who thought Vancouver was just legalizing all dispensaries,
rather than setting up a lucrative licensing process that will
actually shut down 95 per cent of them."
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