Pubdate: Mon, 25 Apr 2016
Source: National Post (Canada)
Page: A5
Copyright: 2016 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Michelle McQuigge


Still Illegal

Toronto * A recent spike in the number of storefront marijuana
dispensaries in parts of the country is prompting calls for the
government to regulate an area not covered by current

The Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries estimates
there are at least 350 such storefronts in Canada, with dozens opening
in Toronto alone in the past few months.

Opponents say the storefront dispensaries are technically illegal and
should be closed immediately.

But medical marijuana advocates say the answer is to introduce
regulations to standardize the quality of the product they sell and
the criteria for clients looking to buy it. They say dispensaries fill
a huge void for Canadians not covered by existing laws governing
medical pot either distributed by mail or grown at home.

Advocates say they hope the burgeoning industry will be regulated when
Ottawa moves to legalize marijuana next year. The association's
outgoing president, Jamie Shaw, said the recent surge has caught
several municipalities by surprise, even though the factors that
allowed them to flourish have been in place for some time.

Cannabis industry consultant Eric Nash says, "(Dispensary services)
may be under the auspices of medical need, but the medical need is
very broad in context. Oftentimes you can walk in and walk out the
door within five minutes with product in hand."

Some municipal politicians have voiced concerns based on the more lax
approach. Vancouver and Victoria have crafted city bylaws granting
dispensaries business licences that allow them to operate, but the
practice is still technically against Canadian law.

In Toronto, where no such business licensing bylaws apply, at least
one councillor has spoken up. Joe Cressy said he fully supports the
legalization of marijuana, but cautions that the law has not shifted

"In the interim, a federal law remains in place regarding the
distribution of cannabis, including specific rules for the important
use of medicinal marijuana," Cressy said in an email. "That is the
federal law today, and is enforceable."

Shaw said the association has developed a set of 70 guidelines and
best practices for dispensaries. But she said such guidelines will
have little impact without input and co-operation from all orders of
government, which she said could go a long way to helping other cities
experiencing a spike like Toronto's.

"If you wait too long to regulate, it becomes very difficult to
implement a regulatory program for a vast number of businesses that
were opened without that regulatory program," she said. "Cities can
only do so much." Some of the wares at a Toronto marijuana dispensary. 
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