Pubdate: Wed, 05 Jul 2017
Source: Penticton Western (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Penticton Western
Author: Dustin Godfrey
Page: A1


Penticton city council has stalled their discussions on renewing
temporary use permits for two marijuana dispensaries in the city after
councillors voted down a motion to deny the permits.

The dispensaries were back before council on Tuesday, applying to
extend their TUPs beyond the six-month trial that council voted in
favour of in December.

City staff recommended council deny extensions to the two temporary
use permits issued in December 2016 to Okanagan Cannabinoid Therapy on
Westminster Avenue and Green Essence on Martin Street, while operators
of Green Essence asked for an extension to 2020.

The decision to defer came following a tense meeting that saw moments
of applause, as well as a disruption from the operator of a dispensary
who hadn't been approved by council in the original December meeting.

Herbal Green Apothecary owner Jukka Laurio walked up to the front,
asking to speak, claiming that he had "a vested interest in the
outcome" of the meeting. However, Mayor Andrew Jakubeit disagreed,
telling Laurio that the point of the meeting wasn't to discuss his
dispensary, but to determine the fate of two separate shops.

The meeting also saw some tense debate among councillors, with
frustrations appearing to run high between councillors who sought to
remind the room that cannabis remains illegal and those who claimed it
was necessary to provide access to the product for patients without
other means.

"I think the trial period is what it was, it was a trial to see how it
would work for our community. My personal opinion is that it worked
well for our community up to this point," said Coun. Max Picton, who
suggested council approve the dispensaries to July 2018, when
legalization is expected from the federal government.

"I feel there's a lot of members of this particular community who
found great benefit through this."

But Coun. Campbell Watt told the room that while he did not believe in
prohibition, he was hesitant to try to override federal law for that

"What other federal laws would we be willing to let slide because they
are, in our minds, morally correct?" Watt said. "I'm not asking you to
answer. I'm asking you to think about the fact that, yes, we may 100
per cent believe … that it should be their right, but currently, under
federal law, it's not."

According to planning manager Blake Laven's report to council, the two
businesses "have been operating relatively without incident for the
past six months."

Coun. Helena Konanz, too, came out strongly against approving the TUP
extensions for the dispensaries, posing an all-or-none stance.

"Why are we doing temporary use permits at all if we're inhibiting the
sale of this product that is helping so many people, why do we need to
bring these permits?" Konanz asked.

"If it's so good and it's so needed, why are we inhibiting opening up
the rest of the shops? I don't understand. If it's needed and we're on
moral ground. I'm making my decision on the fact that right now that
product is illegal. But if we're going to step over into morality,
then I don't understand why we have temporary use permits at all."

The city also holds the position that it could be held liable if an
individual bought a bad or tainted product at a city-approved
dispensary, also arguing that the city could be handed legal issues
from the federal government if they go against the law on the issue.

Laven also detailed how the situation has changed since the TUPs were
issued in December, including a March letter to both businesses
warning of the ramifications of selling marijuana, in contravention of
the controlled drugs and substances act, or the medical cannabis

City council and staff spent more than half a year debating the issue
of marijuana dispensaries and eventually settled on temporary use
permits as a solution until the federal government moved ahead on
promised legalization legislation. Only two of seven applicants were
granted permits, though a third, Herbal Greens, continues to operate
in contravention.

The picture regarding legalization of marijuana at the federal level
has also cleared up, and though July 2018 is the goal for
legalization, Laven's report says that is unlikely.

"The legal opinion the city obtained with regard to this issue suggest
that the deadline is 'overly optimistic,'" reads the report.

B.C. courts have also clarified laws around cannabis dispensaries and
business licences. In an Abbotsford case, a justice ruled the city had
jurisdiction to refuse a business licence on the basis of the
dispensary not being lawful.

In terms of legality, the city's position that city hall could be held
liable for bad product bought at a permitted dispensary had some in
the public gallery, and the dispensary operators, shaking their heads.
Okanagan Cannabinoid Therapy operator Kevin Adams' lawyer also took
aim at at the city's assertion that it could be sued by the federal

"Frankly, who cares what's good for Ottawa. You can figure out what
you need to od here first, then you can worry about Ottawa, because I
can guarantee you they've got bigger fish to fry than suing the
municipality of Penticton," said Okanagan Cannabinoid Therapy operator
Kevin Adams' lawyer Robert Laurie.

"And if they do, I'll be your legal counsel."

He added that a B.C. Supreme Court decision referred to by the city,
regarding a municipality's rights to deny dispensaries is being
appealed, claiming the attorney general "rushed to a complete

"Which I can assure will be changing in the next six months to two
years regarding how those cases play out," he said. "I think you've
got at least another year before you get to worry about any real
changes that you have to be concerned about."

A vote to deny the dispensaries the TUPs was denied by council 4-2,
with Konanz and Watt against , while a motion to approve the permits
until July next year never made it to the table, as councillors voted
to defer the issue to the July 18 meeting.
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MAP posted-by: Matt