Pubdate: Fri, 22 Sep 2017
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Times Colonist
Author: Katie DeRosa
Page: A1


Victoria, Langford battle dispensaries amid uncertainty over
legalization plans

Court battles are brewing in B.C. municipalities over cannabis
dispensaries amid a hazy regulatory landscape.

The City of Victoria, the only municipality in Greater Victoria to
regulate cannabis businesses, is facing a lawsuit by one business
fighting to stay open and is taking another business to court to shut
it down.

The City of Langford's hard line against pot shops played out in B.C.
Supreme Court on Tuesday, with the municipality successfully keeping a
dispensary shuttered.

In Vancouver, which pioneered the regulatory regime for dispensaries,
the city has 53 injunctions against businesses that are breaking the
rules and is facing $1 million in unpaid fines.

Langford and Green Tree Medical Dispensary reached a settlement that
requires the dispensary to pay $1,200 in fines and pay Langford's
$5,000 legal bill.

The dispensary, which is currently closed, must close permanently. The
store on Granderson Road opened on Jan. 16 and was shut down by West
Shore RCMP a day later. It reopened in February but faced heavy
scrutiny from bylaw officers who had the power to issue a $200-a-day
fine for operating without a business licence. The business has five
days to remove all signs and product from the store.

The federal government has said it plans to legalize marijuana in the
summer of 2018, but few details have been made available.

"Local government cannot give a hall pass to an illegal business,"
said Troy DeSouza, the lawyer who represented the City of Langford.

"It strikes me as very difficult for a local government to grant
licences or permits to an illegal business."

Municipalities attempting to regulate cannabis businesses before
legalization are exposed to legal liability, he said.

The City of Victoria is being sued by Green Dragon Medicinal Society
on Herald Street. The business alleges the city was wrong in denying
its rezoning application based on the dispensary's proximity to the
Chinese Public School on Fisgard Street. Green Dragon's owner, Robert
Bradbury, a retired public health inspector from Calgary, argues that
the Chinese language school does not qualify as a school under the
city's original cannabis retailers policy.

Bradbury said in a statement that the business has "spent a
significant amount of time and money in achieving compliance with the
published policy, including $17,500 in fees paid directly to the City
of Victoria."

A last-minute move by the city to "broaden their definition of what
constitutes a school was unfair and arbitrary."

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said she cannot comment on the lawsuit
because the matter is before the courts.

Victoria is turning to the courts to shut down businesses that have
not applied for business licences or rezoning or are operating as
lounges that allow marijuana smoking, which is prohibited by the
bylaw. The city has filed a court injunction against a Douglas Street
cannabis lounge called Terp City.

Owner Kyle Cheyne said he has hired a lawyer to fight that injunction.
He said he also intends to sue the city for denying a rezoning
application for his other cannabis business, Leaf Compassion cannabis
dispensary on Yates Street.

Cheyne said he spent thousands of dollars trying to comply with the
city's rules only to have the rezoning application turned down.

"We worked very hard for this and I can't believe I have to take the
city to court over this," Cheyne said.

"But I'm doing what I believe is right."

Helps said the last thing she wants is for the city to spend money
defending its marijuana regulations in court and hopes that the
federal and provincial governments will soon set rules on cannabis

"Hopefully, the province will give some direction to local governments
in B.C. that will not see all of these things fought out in court,"
Helps said.

Since the city introduced its pot shop regulations a year ago,
Victoria bylaw officers have issued 113 tickets totalling $67,725.
Many of those tickets are being disputed. City officials were not able
to say how much is still owed.

Helps said she doesn't think the city's attempt to regulate marijuana
businesses was premature because "regardless of what the provincial
and federal government determine in terms of distribution, there will
still be a role for local governments to zone sites. We have all of
that in place whereas many local governments will be in reactive mode,
trying to come up with rezoning [rules], whereas we've done the work
ahead of time."
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