Pubdate: Fri, 20 Jan 2017
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Matthew Van Dongen
Page: A4


Bylaw enforcement officers to target storefronts, memo says

The city is abandoning its hands-off approach to illegal marijuana
dispensaries and forming a team to search for possible bylaw
violations by the proliferating pot sellers.

Planning director Jason Thorne sent an update memo to city councillors
Thursday announcing licensing and bylaw officials will team up to
examine 15 known storefront pot sellers "to determine if there is any
violation of municipal bylaws."

The storefront sale of marijuana is illegal, but shops purporting to
sell exclusively to medical patients with prescriptions started
popping up across Canada after the courts struck down federal rules as
unconstitutional more than a year ago.

A federal task force on marijuana legalization released dozens of
recommendations in December that include allowing some form of
storefront sales.

But for now, such retail outlets remain illegal, and Hamilton police
started cracking down on storefront medical pot operations in earnest
last year.

Examples of raided pot spots include Bright Moments on King Street
East, Escarpment Wellness on King Street East, MMJ-Canada's Urban
Dispensary in Hess Village and Royal Farmacy on Main Street East.

Up until now, any complaints to city bylaw about the dispensaries have
been redirected to police. But Thorne's memo says city officials will
now review known dispensary locations for possible bylaw breaches "in
order to ensure public safety."

The memo lists violations like improper zoning, sign bylaw and
property standards issues as possible crackdown candidates.

Thorne and licensing director Ken Leendertse, who is listed as the
point person on the effort, were not available for comment Thursday

Tamara Hirsch, who has opened medical marijuana dispensaries in
Westdale and on James Street, said she believes the federal task force
recommendations will soon translate into legal storefront operations.

But in the meantime, Hirsch said she is lobbying for "interim"
municipal licensing for dispensaries.

"I'm advocating for regulation. I would welcome that," said Hirsch,
suggesting cities could insist on certified lab testing of products as
well as "appropriate" security. "But I get the sense, at the moment,
that the city is not very supportive (of dispensaries.)"

Hirsch said she has heard - via the city - that her Pacifico Health
and Wellness locations have spurred resident complaints, but added no
one has approached her personally. "It's frustrating, because I
believe we're providing a valuable service to people whose needs are
otherwise not being met. If anyone has concerns I would love to talk
to them about it."
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MAP posted-by: Matt