Vancouver to become first Canadian city to regulate marijuana shops

Vancouver to become first Canadian city to regulate marijuana shops

Vancouver is about to become the first city in Canada where the business of selling marijuana will be regulated and permitted.Although the drug is illegal in Canada and technically only available to people by a mail order, prescription system set up by the federal government, the city will permit the operation of dispensaries under a proposed framework that selects which businesses can open and imposes rigid operating conditions.The proposed regulatory framework, which will take months to implement and still needs council approval, reflects a permissive view by the Vision Vancouver majority that supports access to marijuana for medicinal purposes.Under Mayor Gregor Robertson’s administration, the city has held off enforcement as the number of unlicensed, unregulated and illegal pot dispensaries skyrocketed during the past two years.The plan will go to city council Tuesday and specifically ignores the question of legalizing the sale and use of marijuana.“We’re not getting into that argument. We are simply regulating an unregulated business, just as we would any other business,” said Kerry Jang, a city councillor.As of mid-April, city officials counted more than 80 such shops, a fourfold increase since 2012, when the federal government changed the rules for how medical marijuana users can buy their medicine. In the last four months alone, 20 new shops have opened.It will not be cheap, however, for anyone to operate a shop. The city will levy a $30,000 annual administration fee, followed by business licenses that will also cost up to $5,000 per year, depending on square footage. Each shop will also have to reapply annually under the city’s official development plan bylaws as a conditional use. The businesses can’t be owned by companies, only individuals, and they and their employees will have to undergo annual criminal record checks.The city will also control location; dispensaries can’t be within 300 metres of schools, community centres and each other. And in an effort to rid certain neighbourhoods of established shops, the city will ban them from side streets. They also won’t be permitted in the Granville entertainment district or in the Downtown Eastside other than along Main and Hastings Streets.In a concession to health officials worried about food safety and youth accessing drug-laced cookies, the city will not allow the sale of edible products and oils. Many of the shops open now sell these products. But Jang said people can still buy their drugs and take them home to make into foods and oils.The restrictions are likely to knock out as many as 25 per cent of the existing shops, Jang said.The city’s plan is sure to enrage the federal government, which in recent years has sought to more strictly control the flow of medicinal marijuana. Neither the federal government nor the province were consulted about the city’s plans.A spokesman for Health Minister Rona Ambrose responded initially with an election-targeted attack on Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, suggesting a new government would make marijuana use even more permissive. But he also said the Stephen Harper government isn’t about to bend to Vancouver’s plans.===Using a variety of sources, including the online site, The Sun compiled a list of 58 marijuana-related businesses in the City of Vancouver. Of those, 22 were within 300 metres of a school, community centre or neighbourhood house. And, in some cases, they were a lot closer than that. For example, the Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary at 880 East Hastings is directly across the street from the independent Avenir School. And the BC Compassion Club Society at 2972 Commercial is just kitty-corner to Stratford Hall independent school. Distances were calculated as the crow flies rather than based on driving distances.Source:

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