Pubdate: Fri, 01 Jul 2016
Source: Penticton Western (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Penticton Western
Author: Steve Kidd


The City of Penticton is moving ahead with a crackdown on storefront
marijuana shops setting up in the community.

The Herbal Green Apothecary, associated with the Rush in and Finnish
Cafe, was the first operation served with a notice of suspension on
their business licence, and on June 29, Starbuds was also given a notice.

"We do know of three other ones, so those will be issued with
warnings, probably within the week as well. From warning, we go to
suspension and then we go to injunctive action," said Tina Lee,
communications officer for the City of Penticton.

Ken Kunka, the city's building and permitting manager, said Starbuds
is operating as a non-profit society, and had the mistaken impression
that a society didn't need a business licence. When Starbuds applied
for a business licence, Kunka said, it was denied because it is not a
permitted use under the city's zoning bylaws. They have been issued a
no occupancy notice, meaning the store is supposed to be completely
closed to the public.

Kunka said two other operations selling marijuana are going to be put
on notice Monday, and notified they have seven days to stop the
illegal portions of their operations.

Jukka Laurio's (owner of Rush in and Finnish Cafe) case is a little
different, according to Kunka, since he was already operating the cafe
legally and only began selling marijuana there after being unable to
set up a separate operation next door.

"When his coffee shop licence came up for renewal, that's when we sent
him a notice saying we would not support the renewal and we would be
looking at suspending his licence if he continued to sell the
marijuana products," said Kunka. "He continued on and that came in to
full suspension of his business licence."

The date hasn't been set, but Laurio will have a chance to appeal to
city council at a special public hearing, which is expected to occur
sometime in the next two weeks.

"I look forward to addressing council and showing how this serves a
community need," said Laurio, noting that seniors comprise a large
part of his clientele.

"I was actually surprised by how many there are and the age. My
average customer age is about 60. We don't even serve under 25," said

Canada sits at a crossroads, with the federal government promising
legalization of marijuana at an undetermined future date, but in the
meantime, current laws remain in force.

"In Canada, storefront sale of marijuana is not legal, it is only
legal by mail, so we can't issue a business licence for something that
is contradictory to Canadian laws," said Lee. Even when it is
legalized, the city will still need to develop zoning and bylaws to
deal with the shops.

Lee said the city is working in the background to prepare for eventual

"I think a lot of cities are struggling with this right now," said
Lee. "I think everyone is expecting federal legislation to change, but
until it does change, the city is really bound by what the current
laws are."

Laurio said shops like his are filling a need and a Supreme Court
requirement the public have access to medicinal marijuana.

"They need access, there was no distribution system, the people
stepped in and set up a distribution system," said Laurio. "There are
legal parties on both sides of this and you are sort of in the middle,
trying to do people a favour more than anything else.

"I am sure there is much more action to be taken, but a frank
discussion and some input from the public is all that is really
required to get this issue settled."

"The report we are preparing is not to debate your Canadian right to
obtain medical marijuana," said Kunka, who expects Laurio's hearing to
take place later in July. "We are just putting our report together to
go to council. We want to make sure we do this right for both
ourselves and our community."
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