Pubdate: Wed, 04 Jan 2017
Source: Victoria News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Black Press
Author: Pamela Roth


Whenever the city's top cop looks at the priorities for the Victoria
Police Department, he also assesses marijuana dispensaries on a regular

He prefers to call them marijuana storefronts rather than dispensaries
because that adds there might be a concept of a legal component, in his

But the nearly 40 marijuana dispensaries now operating in the City of
Victoria are illegal, which is why the Victoria News recently asked acting
police chief Del Manak during a year end interview why police don't shut
them down like they have in other communities across Canada.

"It's just based on priorities. We have high risk offenders in our
community, we have a number of other high priority targets like the $1.2
million fentanyl bust and the arrest we did of a prolific property
offender with $100,000," said Manak, noting there are currently only 36
licenced medical marijuana producers in the country.

"You have to have your cannabis purchased from a licensed producer to be
legal...I don't think that any of our marijuana store fronts here in the
region are receiving their cannabis from a properly regulated facility
from Health Canada."

Marijuana dispensaries have been sprouting up in Victoria for a number of
years, prompting city council to take matters into their own hands and
pass a new bylaw in October that includes a variety of rules governing the
location, allowable clientele, and the hours of operation.

The 38 known dispensaries in the city can now only operate if their
premises are re-zoned for the purpose and obtain a specific business
licence tied to a series of operational requirements to safeguard children
and respect the surrounding community. So far, the city has had a
significant number of shops apply for rezoning.

According to Manak, the city's pot shops will become a police priority
when officers receive information that organized crime is involved, if
they're dealing to youth or if it's flaunted in their faces that clients
don't have to have a medical need in order to purchase the drug.

Police are also regularly in touch with the federal crown, making sure
they are correctly interpreting the law and the support is there should
they go after one of the storefronts. But so far, Manak said the shops
seem to be keeping a low profile off police radar.

"We have other priorities right now, but that's not to say our priorities
couldn't change if any one of those factors I mentioned were present,"
said Manak.

Earlier this year, federal Health Minister Jane Philpott announced plans
to introduce legislation in the spring of 2017 legalizing marijuana use in
Canada, but it remains unclear when the drug will be taken off the
prohibited list for the first time since 1923.

Last month, a marijuana task force submitted a report, outlining the
framework for the legal system that included recommendations on how
marijuana should be legally produced, sold, consumed and by whom. In the
interim, the possession of marijuana for recreational use has not been
decriminalized and the offence remains illegal.

Manak has a number of concerns about marijuana becoming legal, such as
youth and organized crime still being involved, along with unlicensed
producers. But one of his biggest concerns is drug impaired driving.

"We want to make sure that it's properly regulated," he said. "There's a
framework that needs to be put in place that's well thought out and all
levels of government need to be at the table in formulating and putting
this framework in place."
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