The proposed bylaw to regulate marijuana dispensaries would mandate a minimum distance of 300 metres between individual shops. There’s also a proposed minimum 300m distance from the shops to schools and Community Centres. Would many existing marijuana dispensaries be affected by the changes? Does the City intend to exempt and grandfather existing shops? Is this the desired outcome of the proposed regulations?
The staff report does not make it clear how the City intends to measure the 300m distance; is it from the entrance of a school, from the building, or from the property line of the school yard? These same questions also apply to Community Centres. Neither does the staff report distinguish between public and private schools; it appears that the 300m distance would apply to both. The report does not appear to include pre-school kindergarten, Sunday schools at churches, and schools at various cultural hubs throughout Vancouver.
For the most part, the City has tolerated illegal marijuana dispensaries. Last year the Vancouver Police Department raided “Weeds” on East Hastings after they received multiple complaints. There were allegations that marijuana bought in the store was subsequently sold to young people in the neighbourhood. Further details are available in the following articles: Vancouver police raid second marijuana dispensary in less than two months (The Georgia Straight, Travis Lupick, July 24, 2014) and Jim’s Weeds medical marijuana store raided by Vancouver police (CBC, July 24, 2014).
According to the City staff report, “there are now over 80 confirmed marijuana-related businesses in the city operating without a business licence and the total number has grown at a rate of 100 percent per year for the past two year.” The City’s map of marijuana dispensaries indicates that the shops are mostly concentrated in EastVan, with a few shops in the downtown and also along the Broadway corridor. There are three shops in close proximity in Marpole on South Granville; there are no other shops in the southwest part of the Vancouver. According to the City’s data, certain neighbourhoods such as Dunbar and Kerrisdale currently don’t have any marijuana dispensaries. Is this merely a coincidence?
An open is question is how does the City intend to deal with the issue of establishing a 300 m separation between existing pot dispensaries? Would it enforce its new bylaws and require shops that are in violation to close? What would happen if a medical marijuana clinic were to open in an industrial zone that allows for retail? Would suggested fines (from $250 to $10,000) be applied and would there be bylaw enforcement? The proposed bylaw changes extend to commercial zones only. Further details on the City’s changes are available in our previous post: City seeks to regulate marijuana shops, rezone Commercial districts to allow use (April 22, 2015).
A quick spot check revealed that several existing marijuana dispensaries could be within the proposed 300m buffer from schools and Community Centres. We’ve highlighted a few examples below:
The distances between medical marijuana dispensaries and schools or Community Centres can be determined manually in the City’s online VanMap application: