Pubdate: Thu, 05 May 2016
Source: Coast Reporter (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Coast Reporter
Author: Sean Eckford

Medical Marijuana


The commander of the Sunshine Coast RCMP detachment is urging bylaw
enforcement as a way to deal with marijuana dispensaries.

Staff Sgt. Vishal Mathura made the comments during a presentation to
the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) policing committee May 2,
telling the committee, "I believe in transparency, and I want everyone
in the room and the general public to know what's happening with
marijuana and our enforcement, and what my recommendations are to deal
with marijuana dispensaries and marijuana enforcement on the Coast."

Mathura said the evolution of federal laws on marijuana, from the full
prohibition enacted in 1923 through the various versions of medical
exemption, has been challenging for police. But he emphasized that the
bottom line remains that RCMP are bound by the law as it exists,
regardless of promised changes.

He also said the threshold for getting charges approved (which must be
done by the Crown in B.C.) and securing a conviction is very high.

Mathura said municipalities like Surrey, North Vancouver and
Chilliwack are using business licensing bylaws with stiff fines to
crack down on dispensaries.

"They're addressing these dispensaries the way they should be
addressing them, that is by [saying] 'you're an illegal business,
we've not granted you a business licence, and yet you're operating
illegally,' and address it through bylaw [enforcement]," said Mathura.
"It's being addressed, there's an enforcement action, we [RCMP] can
step back and let bylaw enforcement do their thing."

According to Mathura, though, the penalties in most municipal business
licensing bylaws are out of step.

"They were not set up to deal with businesses that are making
thousands of dollars a day," he noted. "It's the cost of doing
business and they [unlicensed businesses] keep running."

Mathura said local RCMP would like to see Sechelt, Gibsons and the
SCRD engage in bylaw enforcement to avoid taxpayers being stuck with
the cost of complex criminal investigations. He estimates that
building a criminal case against a marijuana dispensary operating
illegally would cost $5,000 to 10,000.

"If bylaw does the enforcement, it generates money for the individual
districts," he added.

"I really urge us to deal with this before it becomes an epidemic, and
a marijuana dispensary opens on every corner," Mathura concluded.
"It's going to be very expensive for us to get rid of them, once
they're established."

Sechelt council has recently decided to study business licensing and
zoning options for marijuana dispensaries, similar to the approach
being taken in places like Vancouver, Victoria and Port Alberni. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D