Pubdate: Wed, 21 Jun 2017
Source: Penticton Herald (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 The Okanagan Valley Group of Newspapers
Author: Joe Fries
Page: A1


Penticton city councillors "improperly permitted their bias and
personal animus" to impact their December 2016 decision to deny Jukka
Laurio a permit to operate a medical marijuana dispensary, he alleges
in a new lawsuit.

A lawyer for the owner of the Herbal Green dispensary filed a petition
June 16 in B.C Supreme Court in Kelowna asking a judge to order the
city to grant Laurio the business licence and temporary use permit he
needs to legitimize the shop or, alternatively, order council to
reconsider the matter.

The city has not yet responded to the petition, which also serves as a
reply to a separate one the city filed in April seeking a court order
to close Herbal Green.

Laurio was one of seven dispensary owners who applied for a temporary
use permit under terms of a regulatory scheme drafted by city staff in
response to a wave of such pot shops opening in Penticton.

Staff recommended all seven dispensaries be approved with conditions,
but council eventually allowed just two of them.

Laurio's petition claims his application was denied because council
members "improperly considered (his) history as a public medical
marijuana advocate," and "improperly permitted their bias and personal
animus against (him) to influence their decision."

The petition goes on to allege the two permits that were awarded have
since expired, yet those dispensaries continue to operate at the same
time "the city is conspicuously taking enforcement steps only against
Mr. Laurio."

And finally, the petition claims, the city has refused to provide
Laurio with written reasons for council's decision as required by law.

Kelowna lawyer Yarden Gershony, who's representing Laurio, didn't
respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

City manager Peter Weeber declined comment Tuesday because he had not
yet received advice from the lawyer handling the matter on behalf of
the local government.

Laurio began operating the dispensary in the 200 block of Westminster
Avenue in 2015 and has accumulated thousands of dollars in fines from
the city as a result of various bylaw contraventions.

In March, the Penticton RCMP sent letters to his dispensary and others
ordering them to close or face the possibility of searches, seizures
and arrests, but police have yet to follow through on the threat.

It all comes as the federal government prepares to introduce
legislation to decriminalize marijuana by July 1, 2018, after which it
will be up to the provinces to regulate the sale of the product much
the same as they do with alcohol.
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