A total of 176 applications for retail medical marijuana outlets were received by the City of Vancouver prior to an August 21, 2015 deadline. Only 11 of these applications will get the go-ahead to move to a development permit stage, according to a statement on the City’s website. None of the City-selected retail marijuana outlets were identified.
There are another 30 applications that are being further evaluated by City staff. These retail outlets meet the minimum zoning requirements with one exception: the outlets are too close to another marijuana dispensary. These outlets will be compared via a ranking system to determine the locations the City will allow to remain open.
The marijuana dispensary applicants that were rejected by the City will have up to 6 months to find a new location and reapply for a development permit. In all likelihood, there will not be enough locations in Vancouver for 140-150 marijuana dispensaries, and some outlets will be forced to close by attrition. There are only a limited number of “C” zoned districts that are located 300 metres away from a community centre or school (including isolated C-1 and C-2 zones).
The Board of Variance (BoV) might be an avenue for rejected applicants to make an argument for a permit based on “hardship” (note: it cannot be financial). However, in recent years, the BoV has sided with staff recommendations. If City inspectors and staff do not support a medical marijuana retail outlet, then in all likelihood the BoV will simply rubber stamp the staff decision.
One medical cannabis dispensary at 1011 Commercial Drive was recently shut down by the City (this location is beside the Britannia Community Centre). Signs at this dispensary encourage patients to visit their Kingsway location instead. An open question is whether the City will change the retail medical marijuana bylaws, or whether City inspectors will continue to shut down non-compliant dispensaries? Or will City staff selectively allow only some of the dispensaries to continue to operate without permits? Stay tuned.