Pubdate: Wed, 29 Nov 2017
Source: Business In Vancouver (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 BIV Publications Ltd.
Authors: Albert Van Santvoort and Glen Korstrom


Some cities want to prohibit all recreational marijuana sales; others
have already started licensing dispensaries

Ottawa's Cannabis Act, Bill C-45, passed third reading in the House of
Commons on November 27, little more than seven months before the
federal government's July 1, 2018, target date for legalizing
recreational marijuana. The bill must be approved by the Senate and
achieve Royal Assent but the writing is on the wall that legalization
is on the way.

The B.C. government has yet to reveal how it plans to regulate retail
sales for non-medicinal marijuana.

Whether it will follow Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick's lead and
restrict sales to government-run stores or Alberta and Manitoba's
approach of leaving cannabis retailing in the hands of the private
sector is anyone's guess.

During the 2017 provincial election campaign, BC NDP leader John
Horgan said he favoured a "mixed" approach that would involve both
public and private sectors.

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth's
public consultation process on the legalized cannabis retailing issue
ended November 1.

Speculation is that the B.C. government will reveal its favoured
retail method before the February budget. Whatever process is chosen,
however, municipal politicians will want to have a say in where
cannabis is sold in their jurisdiction.

Municipalities are at various stages in developing policies for
licensing and policing marijuana retailing in their

Business in Vancouver asked mayors and other representatives in
municipalities what retail method they favour for cannabis.


In 2015, Vancouver became the first city in Canada to license illegal
marijuana dispensaries.

City statistics note that, as of November 14, 100 marijuana
dispensaries operate in Vancouver; 67 of those stores have been
subject to city enforcement such as ticketing or court injunctions.
The remaining 33 are abiding by the city's licensing system, which
prohibits marijuana shops from operating within 300 metres of a
school, a community centre or each other.

Dispensary operators pay the city a yearly $30,000 administration fee
plus a second, annual zoning-and-development levy that ranges up to
$5,100, depending on square footage. Fines for failing to get licensed
are $1,000, and the city has issued 2,313 tickets. Only 424 (18.3%) of
those fines have been paid.

"It's just, simply, a common-sense approach to dealing with the
explosion of medical marijuana shops in our city," Coun. Kerry Jang
said at the time. "We're not regulating the product; we're regulating
the business."


No dispensaries operate in Richmond, and Mayor Malcolm Brodie said the
community supports council's opposition to retail outlets in the city.

"Everything has been done so quickly that, probably, there would be a
public process before we came firmly down on [forbidding dispensaries
in Richmond]," Brodie said.

Were the province to require Richmond to allow bricks-and-mortar
cannabis retail outlets in the community, Brodie said he would prefer
that they were either pharmacies or government liquor stores and not
privately run dispensaries.

Brodie opposes cannabis cultivation on farmland because he doubts that
the crop would be secure. He said production should be on industrial


The Corporation of Delta won a 2016 court injunction to close the
first dispensary that opened in the community: WeeMedical Dispensary
Society. The business reopened almost immediately as WeeCare Med
Society but has since shut.

Mayor Lois Jackson told BIV that she does not want dispensaries to
operate in her community because products might contain mould and
pesticides. There is no standardization of products, she said.

Medical marijuana from licensed producers is tested for strength and
purity, and the federal government's plan is for all recreational
marijuana after July 1, 2018, to go through scientific testing, but
Jackson remains unconvinced.

"We tested the stuff that came out of [WeeMedical Dispensary Society],
and it was all over the map," she said. "There was everything in there
from soup to nuts."

Jackson added that many residents do not want to have dispensaries in
their neighbourhoods and that it is a basic tenet of democracy for
them to be able to get their municipal politicians to listen to that

She would not rule out the possibility that council would approve a
rezoning so a dispensary could open. Were that to happen, she said
there would be restrictions similar to those in Vancouver to keep
dispensaries a certain distance from each other. Jackson opposes
cannabis cultivation on farmland, saying that industrial warehouses
are better suited to that form of agriculture.


Police closed Burnaby's first cannabis dispensary, and none currently
operate in the city.

Mayor Derek Corrigan told BIV that he would like to see cannabis sold
in government liquor stores because "we have a great deal of respect
for that structure, and we think that it is likely that, in that
environment, there won't be a problem with selling to young people."

He believes training at pharmacies or private dispensaries would not
be as high as that in government liquor stores because many of the
people employed at pharmacies or dispensaries could be minimum-wage

"In the future there may be a liberalization of those sorts of rules,
but I think you should exercise caution when you're doing something

West Vancouver

West Vancouver is waiting for cues from the provincial government
before it begins public consultations and decides how legal
dispensaries will be zoned.

"There's no point consulting with the public if we don't know what
we're consulting on," said West Vancouver Mayor Michael Smith.

Smith said the retailing of marijuana should be consistent across the
province and follow the regulatory framework that is applied to alcohol.

City of North Vancouver

The City of North Vancouver will not zone or grant business licences
to marijuana dispensaries until recreational cannabis is legalized.
Currently five are operating in the municipality. None have licences.

City council is waiting for the provincial government's marijuana
retail and distribution framework before it decides how the city will
handle zoning.

District of North Vancouver

The first marijuana dispensary in the district was shuttered in May
after the municipality sought and received a BC Supreme Court
injunction against it. The municipality is going through a similar
process to try to close the one remaining dispensary in the district.

District council has argued that the provincial government should be
responsible for all warehousing and distribution of marijuana
consistent with B.C.'s alcohol distribution and have a mix of private
and government-run outlets.

The district also wants cannabis retail policies similar to those of
the North Shore's other two municipalities.

New Westminster

No cannabis dispensaries operate in New Westminster, but mayor
Jonathan Cote told BIV that the city would have a "liberal" attitude
toward recreational marijuana retail sales once the product becomes

He said the city has shut down dispensaries because it did not want to
set a precedent of allowing the illegal businesses to operate.

"We want the opportunity to have that discussion about how
[dispensaries] should be regulated and not have a situation where some
stores are grandfathered because they were there before the
regulations were in place," he said. "New Westminster will take a very
liberal approach to this, and cannabis will be part of our retail


Coquitlam city council is waiting for the provincial government to
release its plan for marijuana production and distribution before it
decides how the city will handle the legalization and zoning of
recreational marijuana dispensaries.

In 2012, city council voted unanimously to ban unlicensed medical
marijuana dispensaries and closed the only location in the city.

Port Coquitlam

The City of Port Coquitlam closed two dispensaries earlier this year.
Cannabis Culture, a cannabis retail chain co-owned by Canadian
cannabis rights activist Marc Emery, shut its doors in February after
city bylaw changes, two RCMP raids and various fines.

In March, Port Coquitlam passed an additional zoning bylaw that banned
the sale of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia. The bylaw allows
for commercial medical marijuana production through site-specific zoning.

In a letter to B.C. Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth, the city
noted that local governments should have the ability to prohibit
public cannabis consumption. The letter asked that marijuana revenue
sales be split 50-50 with local governments to help cover additional
police and enforcement costs.


Surrey amended its bylaw in 2011 to ban marijuana dispensaries that
were not licensed by the provincial or federal governments.

"We're not in [the business of regulating cannabis retail sales] to
make money off of business licences," said Surrey Coun. Mike Starchuk.
"We just want to make sure what we're doing and what we're getting is

He added that legalized cannabis will likely increase fire-fighting
costs and other city budget expenses.

Starchuk stressed that the city cannot prevent people from using
Surrey agricultural land to grow marijuana but added that much of it
does not have electrical or water services.

The city has already begun mapping out locations where marijuana
stores could be zoned.

Starchuk and representatives from the police, municipal finance
department, Fraser Health and bylaw enforcement have visited U.S.
municipalities to learn how they deal with marijuana legalization.
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