Pubdate: Fri, 08 Jul 2016
Source: Penticton Western (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Penticton Western
Author: Dale Boyd
Page: A1


At least three marijuana dispensaries are continuing operations
despite notices from the city, as the future of retail marijuana hangs
in limbo for Penticton.

None of the four operations the city is aware of are permitted for
storefront sale of marijuana products. Three have been notified,
including the Herbal Green Apothecary, associated with the Rush in and
Finnish Cafe, the first dispensary that will have the opportunity to
appeal its business license cancellation to the city.

As of press time Thursday, all of the businesses in question continue
to operate.

The Town of Osoyoos announced via a press release July 6 that they
will be holding a public hearing to gather input on a zoning amendment
bylaw prohibiting retail marijuana operations, after previously
shutting down a Starbuds branch in June. The July 18 hearing takes
place at the Town of Osoyoos Council Chambers at 4 p.m.

Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff did not respond to requests for comment by
press deadline.

The hearing is intended to "give the town an opportunity to review
these regulations and tailor an appropriate police/regulatory
framework to suit Osoyoos needs," the release stated.

In Penticton, Starbuds and Green Essence have also been issued notices
to cease illegal operations by the city.

"I'm not aware of what, legally, they are pursuing, we have spoken
with the operator (of Starbuds) face-to-face outlining the city's
position and the following steps if they decide to continue to
operate," said Ken Kunka, building and permitting manager for the city.

Starbuds did not respond to multiple calls.

If the storefront operations continue, it will lead to injunctive
action, and Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said fines will add up to
$500 per occurrence, essentially $500 for every day the shops continue
to operate.

There is still no definite date yet on the upcoming Penticton public
hearing, whether it be a special council session or a regular council

The production of medical marijuana in Penticton is a more realistic
prospect at this point, according to Kunka, as opposed to the
commercial sale, as the confusion continues between federal and local
governments as well as the RCMP.

Kunka also noted that medical marijuana is available through the mail
under federal law.

"If somebody wanted to produce medical marijuana and had appropriate
zoning, then we could do that because it's federally regulated, but
the storefront sale is not," Kunka said.

"It doesn't appear that it fits into any legal activities under
federal legislation, so therefore we would consider it an illegal activity."

A number of enquiries have been pouring in since the federal election,
Kunka said, with the Liberal campaign promise of legalized
recreational marijuana bolstered by the nine-man task force announced
on June 30 to usher in new legislation, supposedly next spring.

"People kind of want to get on the bandwagon. If it's zoned
appropriately within the city through council's approval both
production and for sale, there may be certain areas in town where it
would be OK and certain areas it won't," Kunka said.

Federal legislation is key though, Kunka said, pointing to the
restrictions related to liquor licensing as an example.

"Once those parameters are set up, then by all means, I don't think
the city would be in objection to moving forward with some kind of
regulation to allow persons to either produce or sell."

Concerns with city staff, Kunka said, are that the city doesn't know
where the products are coming from and the lack of regulatory
framework for marijuana products.

"I'm not trying to judge anybody, I understand the importance of
medical marijuana to persons, but it seems to have kind of gone over
the edge where really in reality it's one, not permitted by zoning
regulations, and two, federally you're not allowed to do what they are
doing," Kunka said. "Until that happens then, by all means, we'll
start working with them."

Council could decide to recommend staff seek out areas in town where
it would be appropriate for either for-profit or non-profit

"But that's not in place and they are just doing their own thing right
now," Kunka said.

Jakubeit said that the issue is not the merits of medical marijuana,
but the legality. It's a frustrating grey area for municipalities, he

"If council does want to consider it then I think the next step would
be creating regulations similar to what Vancouver or similar cities
have done trying to regulate it in terms of location, some other
provisions, but at this time it hasn't been contemplated. I think
we're going through this first phase, and in general it has been
frustrating because everyone has been dragging their feet on this
because of the grey (area) with the federal government announcement,"
Jakubeit said. "In the meantime, municipalities are stuck trying to
figure out how to deal with an influx of merchants or businesses
wanting to cash in on the opportunity and we're getting inundated with
complaints and concerns from the community."

As it stands now, Jakubeit said the strategy is to continue to shut
illegal operations down.

Jukka Laurio, owner of the Rush in and Finnish Cafe, thinks the city
has an opportunity to get ahead of the game when it comes to marijuana

"(The city) is actually behind the ball, a couple more years and they
are going to have to have it all figured out because (shops) are going
to be opening everywhere," Laurio said.

The City of Vancouver adopted marijuana retail regulations in 2015
after the number of marijuana-related businesses grew by 100 per cent
per year from mid-2013 to mid-2015, with an increase from 60 to 100
businesses in the first six months of 2015. The regulations include
stipulations that the shops only be in commercial zones and are at
least 300 metres from schools, community centres, youth facilities and
other pot shops. As of April, a total of 20 businesses had passed the
first stage of the licensing process in Vancouver.

Jakubeit said Vancouver has its own charter, while Penticton falls
under the Community Charter, giving Vancouver "more latitude."

"At the end of the day it's that philosophical viewpoint of do you
allow something that is illegal to have a business license and operate
because there is a sudden influx of interest? It's not as easy as it
sounds to turn a blind eye to this," Jakubeit said.

The principal behind Laurio's appeal is that everybody knows the
legalization of marijuana is coming down the road, Laurio said.

"Many other cities have already taken control of the situation,"
Laurio said.

"I'll continue operating until such time until I'm forced to close,"
Laurio said. "It's a cause to me, so I'm quite willing to speak up
about it."
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