Marijuana Dispensary Public Hearing continues June 22nd, 2015. Will Council make changes to regulations?

weeds glass and gifts

The City would close Weeds Glass & Gifts, in a CD-1 zone on Main, under proposed regulations

If there’s one theme that has come out of the Public Hearing for medical marijuana shops, it is that the proposed regulations for dispensaries are in need of significant revision. City Council will continue to hear from members of the public on Monday, June 22nd starting with speaker number 173. This may be final night of the Public Hearing, as there are only 34 more registered speakers [Update: all speakers were heard and the final debate and decision has been referred to the Regular Council meeting on Wednesday, June 24th].

Will the final outcome of the Public Hearing leave many participants less than satisfied? City Council can vote to pass the proposed staff recommendations for marijuana dispensaries without any changes, Council can amend and pass regulations, they can vote “no” and refer the matter back to staff, or Council can reject the regulations entirely. Given the amount of political capital that has been invested by Council on this matter, it’s unlikely that a majority of Council will vote no to regulating marijuana dispensaries.

A large number of speakers supported marijuana dispensaries; however, support for the specific regulations for Council was mixed. For simplicity, we’ve grouped a number of the comments from speakers into three camps: (1) opposed, regulations are too restrictive (2) support current regulations (3) opposed to marijuana dispensaries. We’ve highlighted a number of issues raised below:

Opposed – Regulations are too restrictive

  • ban on edible products is unacceptable, many customers prefer to ingest cannabis
  • 300m buffer from schools and communities centres is too restrictive
  • 300m separation from other dispensaries is not needed, too restrictive
  • $30,000 annual fee is too high, should not apply to non-profits, should not be required up front (payment schedule)
  • CD-1 zones are not supported (would force closure of some shops in commercial districts that are zoned as CD-1, text amendments to CD-1s are also needed)
  • there is no allowance for delivery of products to patients
  • concerns about not permitting patients under 18, especially those who receive treatment for severe medical conditions
  • no distinctions between non-profit dispensaries and for profit stores
  • marijuana should be treated like alcohol, tobacco or caffeine products
  • shops have already self-regulated and have created their own guidelines, follow best practices

Support

  • passing regulations will legitimize medical marijuana dispensaries, provide clarity and framework
  • while some regulations may be imposing and force relocation of shops, support staff recommendations as a first step
  • the sale of plant materials should not be illegal (the high costs for incarceration and policing are unnecessary)
  • marijuana products are medicine, dispensaries provide services and support for patients

Opposed to marijuana dispensaries

  • the City should close, not regulate shops that sell illegal substances (enforce federal laws)
  • shops are primarily a conduit for recreation marijuana use (serve very limited medical uses)
  • recreational use of drugs may harm, impair development of teenagers and young adults
  • supply chains are from illegal sources (for cannabis products), concern over role of organized crime
  • only medical marijuana allowed in Canada is via mail (or very limited self-grown), not dispensaries
  • regulated shops allow for permissive attitudes to recreation drugs, addiction, marijuana as a gateway drug
  • permissive drug use indirectly leads to property crime (to finance habit)
  • low bar set for customers to acquire products
  • smoke, unpleasant odours from shops may have adverse impacts on surrounding businesses, residences
  • other businesses / owners in units beside marijuana dispensaries may be affected (issues with insurance)
  • signage, exteriors of some of the shops do not conform to accepted City guidelines

The Staff Report on regulating medical marijuana dispensaries was referred to Public Hearing without a public consultation phase. There was no opportunity for input via Open Houses or surveys. Perhaps a number of issues identified by speakers could have been considered prior to a Public Hearing. During the course of the Public Hearing, only a few minor changes have been considered. The City may allow up to 5 dispensaries to be listed under one person (even Societies and companies will require a contact person under the proposed regulations).

Only a fraction of the registered speakers were opposed to the concept of the City permitting marijuana dispensaries. The following article in The Province might best capture many of the sentiments of those opposed to marijuana shops:

Will the final outcome of the Public Hearing leave many participants less than satisfied? If the regulations are too restrictive, then a number of speakers have vowed to openly defy the City’s new bylaws. If Council passes regulations concerning marijuana dispensaries, then the City’s legal staff have said that the federal government could take legal action. Of course, the composition of Parliament could see significant changes in October, and federal legislation might be significantly revised in the future.

Speakers who wish to address City Council can sign up to speak prior to the Public Hearing (Monday, June 22, 2015 at 6 pm) by calling 604.829.4238 or by sending an email to publichearing@vancouver.ca. As well, interested speakers in attendance in Council Chambers will be given an opportunity to speak after all registered speakers are heard. A live video feed of the Public Hearing is available on the City’s website.

References

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