Pubdate: Fri, 06 May 2016
Source: Chilliwack Progress (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 The Chilliwack Progress
Author: Jennifer Feinberg


WeeMedical Dispensary Society's effort to open a marijuana dispensary 
in Chilliwack is akin to having "jumped the queue" ahead of legalization.

That was the essence of city council's rationale in rejecting the 
business licence application from WeeMedical, for the second time, in 
a unanimous vote on Tuesday.

"I'm quite disappointed but I am not really shocked," said WeeMedical 
director May Joan Liu on the steps of city hall after the decision.

Of the 10 WeeMedical dispensaries in B.C. only one in Campbell River 
was ever raided, but it opened again she said. They operate as 
non-profits, and are therefore exempt from needing licences.

Fines total $44,000 for WeeMedical and the property owner. Are the 
fines paid yet?

"No they aren't and we don't intend to," said Liu.

The WeeMedical doors were kicked in during the raid, product and the 
cash register were taken, and the signage was stripped.

If they ever open their doors again, it will be more civil disobedience.

"WeeMedical has no intention of breaking any bylaws," Liu said in 
Chambers, adding they always try to work with city councils wherever 
possible, "to provide the Chilliwack community with a safe, 
accessible and accountable haven for their medical marijuana."

Issuing them a business licence would give local residents options so 
they will not have to travel to other communities, Liu argued.

"There are no victims here and yet they choose to spend their money 
this way to persecute us."

Coun. Sam Waddington said that although 90 per cent of the policing 
costs were paid for by the city, it did not have the authority to direct RCMP.

Coun. Jason Lum, chair of the public safety committee said it's 
premature for Chilliwack to consider issuing a business licence to 
this dispensary, even though there's been discussion about the 
federal government decriminalizing by next year.

"There is no doubt in my mind that the regulation of dispensing of 
medical marijuana is going to happen," he said. "But this is too 
early right now."

City staff however should begin researching changes to the zoning 
that would allow this kind of activity, "without delay," Lum said.

Mayor Sharon Gaetz said she thought WeeMedical had just "jumped the 
queue" as there were other businesses may want in, and there needed 
to be an "even playing field."

"This is a tough discussion for council to have," she said, 
acknowledging that the Prime Minister had made his intentions to move 
toward legalization clear.

Municipalities can learn from places like Colorado or Washington, she 
said, and maybe avoid some of the roadblocks or unintended 
consequences, when the new regulatory framework comes down.

After the illegal dispensary was shut down the first time in late 
April by RCMP, it opened again shortly after in an act of "civil 
disobedience," against the business licence rejection. It was also 
raided a second time.

"Civil disobedience happens when laws need to be changed in 
accordance with changing times," said Liu.

The problem is there are "no Zoning Bylaws in Chilliwack that allow 
for a medical marijuana dispensary business" and that's because" it 
is a new emerging industry" requiring a whole new regulatory framework.

Liu said she didn't agree they're "jumping the queue" in Chilliwack, 
and they could make some provisional zoning changes to allow it.

"All our dispensaries are located in retail or commercial zones very 
similar to 46004 Fifth Avenue. There are now 16 WeeMedical 
Dispensaries in total."

Some of the WeeMedical dispensaries are in Nanaimo, Port Alberni, 
Sechelt, Squamish, Powell River, North Vancouver, Campbell River, 
Delta, and Toronto. Port Alberni has changed its zoning bylaws, while 
Sechelt is working on it, she said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom