Pubdate: Wed, 07 Feb 2018
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2018 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Mike Hager
Page: A10


Communities across British Columbia will have an easier time shutting
down illegal marijuana dispensaries after the drug is legalized this
summer and a provincial body is put in charge of making sure
businesses comply with the new retail rules, according to the
architect of Vancouver's landmark marijuana bylaw.

The province's solicitor-general released details this week about how
recreational cannabis will be sold in B.C. The system will be almost
identical to the one for alcohol, allowing a mix of private or public
stores to sell the substance - with the support of their local
bureaucrats - once federal drug laws change this summer.

The system will allow those now operating illegal dispensaries - more
than a hundred of which exist across the province - to apply to the
provincial liquor agency for a licence. But Vancouver's 70-odd
cannabis shops operating outside the city's three-year-old licensing
regime are very unlikely to get the blessing from city hall needed to
proceed in the legal industry, according to Councillor Kerry Jang,
point person for the governing Vision Vancouver party on the cannabis

"We've got provincial muscle now and there's none of this 'we're
calling ourselves a protest group,' because it's legal now," he said
of the enforcement regime those illegal stores will soon face. "The
main thing for us is to ensure that there's a fair application process
and that, when people are not in compliance, they are penalized

"And those who are running a shop responsibly get treated like any
other business and rewarded, if you like."

Vancouver has approved special business licences for 19 locations and
more than 40 applicants are in the middle of trying to obtain that
permission. Another 72 are flouting the bylaw despite being subject to
$1,000 bylaw tickets and pending court injunctions that, Mr. Jang
said, are now scheduled to start being heard in B.C. Provincial Court
this September.

More than 2,600 of these fines have been issued so far, with less than
one in five being paid, according to an official update Tuesday.

More than 1,000 of these fines have been issued so far, with roughly a
third being paid, according to the last official update.

Across the Salish Sea in Victoria, about two dozen have been licensed
by that city or are going through the application process and another
10 are operating without official permission.

Those scofflaws will be more easily brought into compliance by new
provincial inspectors, who - like liquor inspectors - will have the
ability to seize products, close stores and issue immediate fines that
will be "substantially higher" than Vancouver's current bylaw
penalties, Mr. Jang said. He is co-chair of a provincial-municipal
cannabis committee meeting every two weeks to iron out the remaining

Even those currently licensed by a municipal government will likely
have to reapply, he said, but will still enjoy a head start from other
retailers because they have their leases in order in locations far
enough away from schools or community centres.

"It's a business decision and a risk that people were willing to take
because they knew in doing so they could have been arrested," Mr. Jang
said of the stores that have been violating federal drug laws for
years. Travis Lane, a Vancouver Island consultant to cannabis growers
and dispensaries, said he is contemplating opening two dispensaries,
but is hesitant because of business concerns about a lack of legal
supply in the nascent retail landscape.

"We're going to do it all perfect from the outset," said Mr. Lane,
director of the non-profit B.C. Independent Cannabis Association. "The
problem is … I don't know if it's a viable business yet.

"So, what, I'm going to open up an empty dispensary for the next eight
months? Where am I going to get any legal product from?"

Daniel Bear, an expert in drug policy who teaches criminal justice at
Toronto's Humber College, said B.C.'s measured approach of public and
private retailers ensures enough government oversight while providing
opportunity in a province that has long been home to Canada's largest
black market for cannabis production. The mix of retail models across
provinces and territories will offer an interesting case study in what
works and what doesn't with regard to legalization, he added.

"We're going to have a really strong set of data - we have 13
laboratories essentially being set up," he said. "If we do this right,
we'll be the model that the rest of the world follows as they
inevitably either decriminalize or fully legalize cannabis."
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