Pubdate: Wed, 17 Aug 2016
Source: Penticton Western (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Penticton Western
Author: Steve Kidd


It is going to be some time before Penticton brings in bylaws dealing 
with medical marijuana dispensaries, if ever.

On July 19, when they turned down Jukka Laurio's appeal of his 
business licence suspension for selling medical marijuana, council 
also gave staff 60 days to come back with options for regulations.

"The intent is we are going to bring something back in that 60 day 
window, whether it is a request for more time, whether it is a layout 
of principles that we want to move forward with or whether it is an 
actual bylaw for council to consider," said planning manager Blake 
Laven. "We don't know exactly what is going to be reported back, but 
there is going to be a report."

Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said council would then decide what they would 
take to the public for comments from that report, before deciding how 
to proceed, or back away entirely. In the meantime, council voted to 
cancel business licences for Green Essence and Avitas Pharmaco, who 
both had their licences suspended in July because investigations by 
city staff suggested that the sale of marijuana (cannabis) was taking 
place on the premises.

During a special public hearing where council heard appeals from 
Avitas Pharmaco owner Robert Kay and Green Essence owner Melissa 
Oslowy, almost all the councillors expressed sympathy for those 
needing medical marijuana for their conditions, but said they needed 
to follow existing business licence policy.

Mayor Andrew Jakubeit also said it is not within city council's 
jurisdiction to choose what part of federal bylaws to uphold, 
acknowledging that the city cannot issue a business licence for an 
activity contravening federal law. He did, however, recognized that 
many communities are dealing with a lack of involvement in the issue 
by the federal government.

Coun. Tarik Sayeed spoke strongly against cancelling the licences.

"It is illegal because we are keeping it illegal," said Sayeed, 
likening the struggle to those around abortion rights and gay marriage.

Oslowy said they resisted opening a dispensary for years before 
choosing to enlarge their operation earlier this year. She said the 
response from the community has been enthusiastic.

"By denying us a business licence, thousands of our registered 
customers that desperately need their medicine will be forced back 
into the streets at the mercy of drug dealers and traffickers," said 
Oslowy. "Please allow us to continue supporting our clients until you 
have finished your 60-day review."

Kay also asked that the city offer him a temporary operating permit 
until the city puts into place a bylaw that will allow distributors 
to operate without feeling like they are criminals.

"I have been working in the cannabis industry for about 15 years as a 
grower and a medical cannabis user," said Kay, who listed several 
other certificates he holds related to the cannabis industry. He also 
has two other operations in Vernon and Kelowna.

"I operate two other compassion clubs, and I need to be specific that 
it is not dispensaries, they are compassion clubs," said Kay, noting 
that he has business licences in both cities as private clubs.

"It is not about smoking weed and getting high. If it was, I probably 
wouldn't be here either," said Kay. "This, for us, is about providing 
safe access. Harm reduction, it's key."

Kay estimates there are about 17,000 medical marijuana users in the 
Okanagan, and says he serves 7,500 in Kelowna on a regular basis.

Kay offered his expertise to council to help develop appropriate regulations.

"We want to be part of that regulation and change. We can offer that 
to council," said Kay. "It is imperative to have a regulation put in 
place. Everything from a criminal record check to age limits. It is 
something I feel we do extremely well. There has to be something in 
place that is fair for everybody."

Coun. Campbell Watt comments reflected the feelings of council.

"I have such a struggle here. I know of people that have benefited 
from medical cannabis," said Watt, noting that the issue is not about 
the merits of medical marijuana, but the city's ability to grant 
business licences under existing policy.

In both cases, council voted 5-2 to cancel the business licences for 
both businesses, with Sayeed and Jakubeit opposed.

Coun. Andre Martin asked that Oslowy be patient and wait for the 
changes before moving her business out of the community.

"I think there are changes coming down the pipe," said Martin.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom