A Vancouver pot shop entrepreneur says he’s in a real dilemma, as one of his locations is in the final stages of approval, while the other is facing closure.
Chuck Varabioff, owner of the BC Pain Society, says his Commercial Drive location was rejected because it’s within 300m of a school, but he’s vowing to stay open come Friday.
“If the city wants to come in, they want to come with a fine, I will be standing at the door with a post-dated cheque to pay my fines for an entire month if that’s what they want.”
“I’m not happy to pay the fines but I will pay the fines while I’m fighting and appealing for your right as well as my right as well as 15,000 other people’s rights who are members.”
Meanwhile his East Broadway location is one of only three being considered for a business license.
Varabioff says he’s taking a “wait and see” approach before hiring additional staff and ordering extra product.
What happens after April 29?
With the possibility of other dispensaries flaunting the bylaw and remaining open after the April 29 deadline, city councillor Melissa De Genova says it be a timely and costly process that could take up to a year to enforce.
“Moving forward with prosecution is costly and that will fall on the backs of the taxpayers. I also understand that that could take over a year to get to that point. So we are going to have afew marijuana dispensaries that are licensed and able to stay open, but I wonder how fair they think that will be.”
And with new legislation pending next April, the bylaw could be irrelevant.
“We’re in a different time, when city council passed this bylaw, the Harper government was in power.”
De Genova says it’s quite possible everything will be undone once the new legislation is introduced and passed next year.
176 initial applications received in 2015
The City of Vancouver enacted zoning and bylaw development requirements last year, requiring medical marijuana-related businesses must be located in commercial zones, and be located at least 300 metres from public schools, community centres, neighbourhood houses, youth facilities for vulnerable youth.
They must also be at least 300 metres from other marijuana-related businesses.
A business license will cost $30,000 unless the dispensary is a compassion club, in which case it costs $1000.
So far, no licensing fees have been paid to the city.
Locations of approved dispensaries
Development permit applications by the numbers
Chief Licensing Inspector Andreea Toma says while it’s difficult to say exactly how many dispensaries face ticketing after April 29, it’s somewhere between 90 and 100.
She says tickets start at $250 and there could also be legal action.
“There is definitely a consideration depending again how the industry choses to respond. They know about this, we discussed this when we started back in August when we opened the application and we held information sessions.”
Pot shop clusters
Then there are clusters, which Toma explains are concentrated areas where a number of different dispensaries have opened, breaching the 300 metre bylaw.
She says the city found that residents in these areas are not necessarily opposed to having a dispensary in their neighbourhood, but expressed concern about the number of businesses opening.
“They are opposed to having many of them clustered together.”
In total, there are seven clusters with a total of 19 dispensaries. Two of the clusters have been decided, and the remaining will be decided by lottery.
230 waiting to apply
Toma says the city is working hard to complete the review of the initial applications so they can open up the next application intake. So far, she says 230 have expressed interest.
However, with only 20 viable locations that have been identified by the city, it may be hard pressed to meet future demand.