Pubdate: Fri, 29 Jul 2016
Source: National Post (Canada)
Page: A3
Copyright: 2016 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Brian Hutchinson


Vancouver Activist Defies Marijuana Bylaws

They are ubiquitous, still. Marijuana dispensaries, ranging in style 
from pristine to slightly scary to plain sad, continue to offer 
illicit products in Vancouver, despite an expensive effort by city 
officials to limit their number with rules and enforcement provisions 
unique in Canada.

The pot shop bylaws, which came into effect this year, are supposed 
to stop cannabis impresarios from operating with typical impunity, 
dealing products near schools and community centres, and at all hours.

Dispensaries began to proliferate in Vancouver about four years ago, 
when police quit trying to enforce federal prohibitions on retail 
marijuana sales. By 2015, no fewer than 100 illegal dispensaries were 
in business.

A few shops disappeared after the city's new "medical marijuana" 
bylaws came into effect two months ago, but rogue dispensaries still 
outnumber licensed stores by a staggering 2,250 per cent, according 
to statistics provided by city officials this week.

There are only two sanctioned stores in Vancouver at present. One is 
classified as a not-for-profit "compassion club," subject to a 
nominal business licence fee. The other is a "retail dealer" that has 
agreed to pay the city $ 30,000 a year in exchange for its business licence.

For the city, these are hardly cash cows. The two shops are non- 
factors compared to the 57 scofflaw dispensaries that operate without 
any permit or licence application in progress.

Another 32 shops with development permits and licences pending are 
not subject to bylaw enforcement while their applications are being considered.

One well-known marijuana activist, Jodie Emery, recently took over an 
unlicensed shop in Vancouver's West End. While she says she will 
apply for a municipal business permit at some point, she has no 
intention of closing the store or slowing sales in the meantime.

Should she submit an application that is rejected, she will keep her 
doors open, even if it means getting hit with city-issued fines. "I 
refuse to close," Emery said.

Dozens of other retailers doing business without permission have 
already chosen that route of resistance. As of this week, Vancouver 
enforcement officers had written 477 tickets - at $ 250 a pop - to 
unlicensed dispensary owners. Of those fines, only 104 have been paid.

The city has also filed injunctions against 27 dispensaries, 
requesting court orders that would force owners to "cease carrying on 

One businessman, marijuana and dispensary bigwig Don Briere, has 
challenged the bylaws and injunction requests, arguing in a July 12 
court filing that Vancouver "is attempting to make and enforce laws 
that are solely within the federal jurisdiction."

He also argues the bylaws are unconstitutional. He has filed a 
similar court challenge of dispensary bylaws in Abbotsford, an hour's 
drive east of Vancouver.

Briere and Emery have also operated or been involved with unlicensed 
dispensaries in Toronto. Police and bylaw officers in the Ontario 
capital raided several pot shops two months ago, after city officials 
called on their owners to close or face fines. The warnings were 
mostly ignored.

"With or without permission, we'll continue to operate," Emery said.

With her husband, Marc Emery, another leading cannabis activist who 
was jailed for five years in the United States for distributing 
marijuana seeds by mail, she likes to "push the envelope" challenging 
Canada's marijuana laws.

Ottawa announced in April that it will introduce legislation to 
repeal Canada's long-standing marijuana prohibitions, opening the 
door to the production, sale and use of recreational marijuana. But 
the Emerys and others fear that new regulations will be restrictive 
and benefit large industry players, rather than small producers and retailers.

Cannabis, Emery claims, is harmless and should only loosely be 
regulated, if at all. She makes one concession to convention: None of 
her stores sells marijuana to minors. But almost everything else 
goes. Her new Vancouver shop allows pot smoking inside the premises, 
a blatant - and in this city, rather shocking - disregard for bylaws.

And Emery doesn't pretend to sell marijuana for "medical" purposes 
only, thus making a mockery of yet another Vancouver ruse-as-rule.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom