Pubdate: Thu, 05 May 2016
Source: Vancouver Courier (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Vancouver Courier
Author: Mike Howell


The city's push to issue business licences to illegal marijuana 
dispensaries got more complicated over the weekend as 23 pot shops 
were ticketed for defying an order to close their doors while another 
22 abided by the city's deadline to shut down.

To date, the city has issued 44 tickets, including 21 to three 
separate shops that did not participate in the city's new regulation scheme.

Andreea Toma, the city's chief licensing inspector, said the city 
will continue enforcement this week and expects to issue more $250 
tickets to pot shops that refused to shut their doors last Friday. 
Toma said additional tickets will be issued to those shops targeted 
over the weekend.

"The risk of staying open, outside of regulations, is that they can 
get the fines on a daily basis," said Toma, noting none of the 
inspections of the pot shops required the assistance of the Vancouver 
Police Department. "At the same time, we are also looking at 
prosecutions and injunctions. These are parallel streams."

The city imposed a deadline of April 29 for all marijuana shops to 
close that didn't fall into a permitted zone or were too close to a 
school or community centre. The city made the order six months ago.

The B.C. Pain Society on Commercial Drive was one of the 44 pot shops 
to receive a $250 ticket for operating a business without a licence.

The dispensary opened more than two years ago, one block from 
Stratford Hall private school and across the street from the B.C. 
Compassion Club, which remains open because it won a recent Board of 
Variance appeal.

Chuck Varabioff, owner of the B.C. Pain Society, said he will dispute 
his ticket within the 15 allowable days and set a court date. 
Varabioff has already requested a judicial review of an earlier Board 
of Variance decision to reject his appeal to pursue a business licence.

"I feel it was pre-determined - I wasn't given enough time to present 
my case, I wasn't allowed to comment or respond to the complaints 
against me from [Stratford Hall]," he said of the board's decision, 
noting he has 10 full-time staff and 15,000 customers, many of whom 
are on a low income and some have cancer.

When told that his shop was one of more than 20 given fines, and that 
more shops would be ticketed this week, Varabioff said he's confident 
most, if not all, of the shops will dispute the tickets.

"What a waste of city resources - everybody's going to want their day 
in court," he said. "So how much money is the city willing to spend 
on people disputing bylaw tickets?"

Varabioff, however, said he wanted to be clear his frustration is 
directed at the Board of Variance, not the city. Though his 
Commercial Drive operation is in violation of the city's bylaw, he 
acknowledged he received a development permit for a pot shop at 2849 
East Broadway and is close to getting a business licence.

"Even though I'm super happy with that, I want my main store [on 
Commercial Drive] to remain open also," Varabioff said.

The Green Room dispensary on Seymour Street voluntarily closed its 
doors Friday. It, too, has appealed to the Board of Variance but 
won't get to present its case until September. It's located between 
Helmcken and Nelson, in the same block as a community centre.

Jon Yoshida, a part-time employee at the Green Room, told the Courier 
Monday that he remained in the store to collect signatures on a 
petition that will make part of the dispensary's evidence at the board hearing.

"There was a city worker that actually came by Saturday morning to 
make sure that we were shut down, and if not, to fine us," Yoshida 
said. "She looked a little concerned that our door was open and I was 
here. But we have no product on site, we have no money in our till - 
everything's gone, basically."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom