The City of Vancouver will be considering a report on regulating marijuana shops at the Council meeting on Tuesday, April 28, 2015. If the recommendations in the staff report are accepted, then the proposed changes will be referred to a Public Hearing. The next date on the Public Hearing schedule is May 26, 2015.
The City has no official count of marijuana businesses because these are technically illegal. The map in the staff report to identify the locations of the shops is incomplete (map enhanced and reproduced in the inset). The shops currently operate without a business licence. The staff report is recommending that Council rezone all commercial districts to allow for the legalization of the marijuana product shops with the following conditions:
A Marijuana-Related Use would be allowed to establish in any commercial-retail district (i.e. C-1, C-2, C-2B, C-2C, C-2C1, C-3A, C-5, C-5A, C-6, C-7, C-8, Downtown District ODP, Downtown Eastside Oppenheimer District ODP, FC-1, HA-1, HA-1A, HA-2, HA-3) provided that the site is not:
- within 300 metres of a school or community centre;
- within 300 metres of another Marijuana-Related Use;
- located in the Downtown Eastside other than on sites located on Hastings Street or Main Street;
- located in the Granville Entertainment District; or
- located on a minor street(defined as any street that does not contain a painted center line).
An annual business licence fee of $30,000 per year is recommended by staff. Other fees, fines and requirements are also outlined in the report. It’s an open question on how staff would deal with established shops that are already within 300 metres of another shop or with shops that are located within 300 metres of a school or a community centre. Best practices from Washington State and Colorado are used for a comparative analysis by staff.
This topic is important for public discussion. If City Council adopts this plan, are measures in place to avoid concerns about possible impacts on our youth in society? @tlupick tweeted out a map of public schools juxtaposed with a map of proposed marijuana dispensaries. Someone else added that a map of private schools should also be superimposed on the maps, to get the full picture.
In this context of the physical proximity of dispensaries and schools, it is worth reviewing this preliminary report from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse entitled “Effects of Cannabis Use during Adolescence” (full report due in June 2015). See also this article in Ottawa Citizen: Early marijuana use can lower teens’ IQs, research shows (20-Apr-2015). Canadian youth are already the top users of cannabis in the developed world, according to a 2013 UNICEF report.
Also, just to understand relationships, the public needs to also take into account that medical marijuana outfits were prominent donors to Vision Vancouver (which continues with a voting majority on City Council) in the 2014 civic election. Does this put the majority of our elected officials in a practical conflict of interest – even if not seen that way by the courts?
Our December 2014 post lists the ones that bought tables at a Vision fundraiser gala on October 30: Medpot Now (Table #65), Medical Canabis [sic] Dispensary (#67) and Eden & Buddah’s Sister Dispensaries (#68). (Reference: Did Vision omit campaign contributors from donors’ list?) For more research: The Elections BC website can be searched by municipality, by party or candidates (link here). For the searchable PDF text version created by CityHallWatch, click here.
Some more questions for the Public Hearing and earlier. Were any of these dispensaries “in the loop” about the 300 meter restriction, and will they be given preference if the City enforces this proposed rule?
(Many public schools, private schools, and community centres are within 300 meters of main arterial streets with commercial zones.)
As for enforcement of bylaws, will City Hall suddenly start to enforce its own bylaws when it hasn’t done this so far? Will enforcement be impartial? Will there be “favourites” who get an easier ride? Is it conceivable that a political party “ask” for donations from those that might benefit from Council decisions? This is exactly what has happened and is subject of a conflict of interest case in B.C. Supreme Court. The ruling party has a $400,000 debt to pay off. But “donations” in 2015, 2016, and 2017, are completely off the public radar — B.C. legislation only requires public disclosure of donations for election years. Then next one is in 2018. So, though laws may not be broken, a real conflict of interest is set up. Situations like this are concrete examples of why we need political contribution reporting in non-election years. Can hopeful parties make this a campaign issue in the next provincial election?
Vancouver also needs a whistleblower system. For more on this topic, see our previous stories: Whistleblowers, Whistleblower systems – City of Portland’s OpenCity Tipline: Does Vancouver need this? and Why whistleblowers are crucial for democracy: Linden MacIntyre (CBC’s The Fifth Estate) essay. Building on existing models, Vancouver City Council could probably adopt such a system fairly quickly.