157 people signed up to speak at Wednesday night’s public hearing on Vancouver’s proposal to regulate pot shops, but City Hall managed to get through only a dozen speakers.
They included pot-legalization advocates, dispensary owners and patients.
The most contentious issue so far is the ban on edibles.
Coincidentally, a Supreme Court of Canada decision is expected to come down Thursday morning on whether or not medical marijuana patients have a constitutional right to consume cannabis-infused edibles.
City Manager Penny Ballem says the court decision won’t have an impact on their policies at this point.
“I think what we do know is regardless of whatever the decision is, it will be some time, if ever, that there is a regulatory framework that regulates edibles, and monitors and regulates the amount of marijuana that is in a marijuana product, so our approach to edibles is not likely to change for a significant period of time.”
Under the current city proposal, edibles would be banned from marijuana dispensaries.
Health officials say there are quality control issues, risk of overdose, and some edibles, like cookies, appeal to children.
BC lawyer Kirk Tousaw represents the defendant at the helm of the federal legal challenge.
He told city council food safe requirements, labeling and child proof containers would address any concerns.
Will safeguards work?
Cancer patient Carli Thiessen says edibles should be allowed, but with safeguards in place.
“Edibles are something that need to be regulated and talked about a little bit more, I understand their concerns behind not wanting kid-friendly packaging and for it to be appealing to children, and I mean none of us want that.”
Nearly 100 illegal pot shops
There are currently 94 medical marijuana dispensaries operating illegally in the city– up from 20 a few years ago.
The regulations would include a new business license category, a $30,000 licensing fee and a requirement that stores be 300 meters away from schools, community centers and other pot shops.
$30K small price to pay for selling drugs
That idea didn’t sit well with at least one Vancouver dispensary owner.
“I think it is a little bit steep when you look at what the PNE pays, what casinos pay that is a little bit steep and discriminatory, because we are a medicinal cannabis dispensary doesn’t mean we can afford the $30,000 dollars.”
Jamie Shaw with the BC Compassion Club Society doesn’t think long-standing dispensaries near schools, community centers, and other pot shops, should be forced to move either.
“I don’t that we believe a dispensary that’s been open for two weeks being treated exactly the same as one that has been around for eighteen years without a problem is very fair, so hopefully we will be able to get a grandfather clause for long-standing dispensaries with good behavior.”
The public learned Wednesday night that the city will now allow up to five licenses per owner, rather than just one.
It would cost the city 1.4 million dollars to implement the new program and it could take up to a year.
Some dispensary owners complain the proposed changes will put them out of business, while others support the rules as a step toward legalization.
The public hearing will continue tomorrow night.