Pubdate: Wed, 20 Jul 2016
Source: Penticton Herald (CN BC)
Page: A1
Copyright: 2016 The Okanagan Valley Group of Newspapers
Author: Joe Fries


Store owner says he will continue selling to his clients after city 
cancels business licence

Moments after city council vaporized his business licence Tuesday, 
the owner of a Penticton medical marijuana dispensary vowed he won't 
be deterred from continuing to supply his clients.

"God no. Not now," said Jukka Laurio, owner of the Rush In and Finish 
Cafe on Westminster Avenue.

Council voted 5-2 at the special meeting to cancel the cafe's licence 
on the advice of city staff, who this spring collected evidence that 
Laurio was selling marijuana there.

He was never shy about his operation, though, and granted interviews 
to local media about it as far back as last November.

In his appeal to council, Laurio said he has 3,000 clients, each of 
whom has come to rely on him for cannabis in various forms to treat 
their ailments.

"I'm here today for them, for their right to buy their medication, so 
they can have the medication that gives them the relief that they 
want," he said.

"They're regular, law-abiding citizens, and to require them to go out 
to the criminal underground to purchase a medicinal product, that's 
just plain wrong when it is available to them in a nice, safe 
location to which they can come in comfort."

Ken Kunka, the city's building and permitting manager, advised 
council it simply cannot allow a business to operate in contravention 
of federal law - even though Ottawa has pledged to introduce 
legislation to legalize marijuana next year.

"Under the current regulations, it is illegal to sell marijuana or 
cannabis through storefront activity," said Kunka.

The lone votes against cancelling Laurio's licence came from Mayor 
Andrew Jakubeit, who advocated a six-week postponement to gather more 
information, and Coun. Tarik Sayeed, who urged colleagues to deal 
with the rapidly evolving issue now.

"The problem is not going anywhere. The problem is still right here," 
said Sayeed. "We need to regulate, we need to find a way to regulate 
it and help businesses help the medical patients while we try to find 
a solution," said Sayeed.

"The reality is, (Laurio) will still do business whether we cancel 
the business licence or not, so it's not really solving anything."

"I'm not looking at this as a medical cannabis issue. I'm looking at 
this as a business licence issue," replied Coun. Campbell Watt, 
echoing the sentiments of the balance of his colleagues.

Coun. Helena Konanz later lobbied successfully to have staff report 
back within 60 days with proposed regulations to govern medical 
marijuana dispensaries, as Vancouver has done.

But "right now, this business licence needs to be suspended or 
cancelled until we as a council get together with some legal help and 
look at what other communities are doing so we can bring back some 
parameters to make it a safe business in the city," said Konanz.

At least three other marijuana dispensaries are operating in 
Penticton and have all received notices of business licence suspensions.

Kunka said council's decision Tuesday will provide "clarity" for 
staff in deciding how to enforce those suspensions.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom