Vancouver's marijuana-industry leaders greet the city's proposed dispensary regulations with open arms

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      This morning (April 22) city hall announced it will impose new rules on medical marijuana dispensaries, of which there are more than 80 in Vancouver.

      On April 28, council will receive a report from staff that proposes a new category of business license for pot shops, as well as a number of bylaw changes that will affect where and how dispensaries operate.

      Among them, marijuana-related businesses will have to pay a $30,000 licensing fee. They will be forbidden to operate within 300 metres of a school or community centre. Additional rules prohibit the sale of edibles and pertain to security requirements such as closed-circuit cameras.

      Despite the prospect of so much new red tape, industry leaders have so-far reacted with overwhelming support for the city’s proposals.

      Jodie Emery is Canada’s most-visible advocate for legalization and, with her husband, Marc, the owner of several marijuana-related businesses. She described the draft regulatory framework as “a positive step”.

      “It shows the provincial government and the federal government that the City of Vancouver acknowledges there are no problems with dispensaries and that dispensaries can act just like any other businesses,” Emery said in a telephone interview.

      She argued the city is acting to fill a regulatory void left by higher levels of government.

      “We wouldn’t have so many opening up if there wasn’t a demand,” Emery said. “Clearly, people want to buy pot, people want to sell pot, and they would like to be taxed and regulated.”

      Likely the largest dispensary franchise in Vancouver is Weeds Glass and Gifts, of which there are now 15 locations. Its founder, Don Briere, told the Straight the new rules will not just benefit the medicinal marijuana community but society as a whole.

      “We think this is fabulous,” he said. “It’s win-win for everybody.”

      Briere explained that with marijuana regulated and sold through storefronts, those businesses pay property taxes. He said that by legitimizing the sale of marijuana, it minimizes the extent to which organized crime can profit from the drug. Briere also emphasized the number of jobs dispensaries now support, noting Weeds Glass and Gifts alone employees 44 people.

      He did however add the regulations could increase prices for dispensary customers. “The costs will be passed onto the consumer,” Briere said.

      David Brown, a spokesperson for Lift Cannabis Co., said the industry had heard new regulations were coming. He told the Straight the rules will very likely result in some dispensaries shutting down. But Brown suggested that’s not a bad thing for the industry as a whole.

      He explained that by implementing new rules, the city has an opportunity to crack down on operators that were taking advantage of the situation while rewarding those that have acted responsibly.

      “I think, overall, this is really good in that it establishes some sort of legal precedent to start looking at how cities in Canada can manage the over-the-counter distribution model,” he said.

      In 2012-13, Dana Larsen led a consequential but ultimately unsuccessful campaign to see recreational marijuana decriminalized in B.C. In a telephone interview, he similarly told the Straight the industry is in favour of regulation.

      At the same time, Larsen described some of the proposed rules as “problematic”. For example, Larsen argued a ban on the sale of edibles could negatively impact people who are uncomfortable ingesting marijuana via the process of smoking. He added advocates for medicinal marijuana plan on voicing those concerns when the matter goes to a public hearing.

      “This is a step forward,” Larsen emphasized. “We want regulation, we want to be treated like any other business. But we don’t want punitive regulations that treat marijuana more harshly than other things. But this is only a first draft and we’re hoping that the city is amenable to feedback.”

      Larsen predicted whatever rules local politicians decide to implement will likely be felt beyond the borders of Vancouver.

      “I expect that whatever we come up with will probably act as a template for many other cities in Canada,” he said. “And so I hope that we can get it right here in Vancouver and make a good example for other cities to follow.”

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      Xander Davis

      Apr 22, 2015 at 7:07pm

      This is not going to end well.
      Kids are going to go gaga.
      Nobody is reading, nor evaluating the medical literature, openly readable medical reviews from the U.S. NLM's Pubmed.

      and ...
      "It's an economic nightmare," says Andrew Seitz, general manager at Dutch Brothers Farms in Seattle.

      State data show that licensed growers had harvested 31,000 pounds of bud as of Thursday, but Washington's relatively few legal pot shops have sold less than one-fifth of that. Many of the state's marijuana users have stuck with the untaxed or much-lesser-taxed pot they get from black market dealers or unregulated medical dispensaries -- limiting how quickly product moves off the shelves of legal stores.

      "Every grower I know has got surplus inventory and they're concerned about it," said Scott Masengill, who has sold half of the 280 pounds he harvested from his pot farm in central Washington. "I don't know anybody getting rich."

      Officials at the state Liquor Control Board, which regulates marijuana, aren't terribly concerned.

      So far, there are about 270 licensed growers in Washington -- but only about 85 open stores for them to sell to. That's partly due to a slow, difficult licensing process; retail applicants who haven't been ready to open; and pot business bans in many cities and counties.

      Weed is still pricey at the state's pot shops -- often in the $23-to-$25-per-gram range. That's about twice the cost at medical dispensaries, but cheaper than it was a few months ago.

      .... Because of the high taxes on Washington's legal pot, Seitz says stores can never compete with the black market while paying growers sustainable prices.

      .... But two of the top-selling stores in Seattle -- Uncle Ike's and Cannabis City -- insist that because of their tax obligations and low demand for high-priced pot, they're not making any money either, despite each having sales of more than $600,000 per month.

      Seattle Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 - Page updated at 04:30 p.m.
      Growers struggle with glut of legal pot in Washington state
      By GENE JOHNSON Associated Press

      Jack Herrer

      Apr 23, 2015 at 9:33am

      Instead of such a high license fee, the city should look at taxing cannabis sales in order to fund harm reduction programs...also no edibles??? That's really not good for a lot of patients (like myself) since ingested ganja provides much better relief from pain and insomnia

      Stoner Legit

      Apr 23, 2015 at 10:29am

      Look, you ignorant hipsters, it's just a plant. If you want to make money on dried leaves, sell tobacco.
      In the garden of one of my neighbours I can harvest Aconitum (monk's hood) or Laburnum (Golden Chain) from the sidewalk. In the fall, several species of mushroom grow there as well. All of them are deadly poisons. Anyone could collect enough in a couple of minutes to kill dozens of people. There are no laws against growing deadly poisonous plants, just against cannabis.
      It's just a plant. I should have the right to grow whatever I choose in my garden and to do what I like with it. Lawyers, retired politicians, police and greedy retailers should find another vehicle for their collective idiocy. Leave cannabis the Hell alone


      Apr 23, 2015 at 11:12am

      I agree that this is a step forward for this industry. Cannabis is a powerful and effective plant medicine for so many people and should be legal and regulated for safety. I strongly oppose the exclusion of edibles as so many patients do not want to smoke in order to receive the benefits. Seniors, like myself, appreciate the choice of edibles from the current recognized dispensaries. No stigma and quality products that we can trust.

      Tara Sundberg

      Apr 23, 2015 at 2:19pm

      It's about time there was some kind of regulation.
      I have no problem with people using pot, pot is great, but does anyone disagree that people should NOT be getting behind the wheel afterwards? I'm pretty sure being stoned constitutes impairment. Many of these shops have "dab bars" etc, and the proprietors don't discourage their customers from driving afterwards. That's just not safe.
      It's completely appropriate that these businesses should have "good neighbour" contracts to sign with the city, that they should have to pay to licence their shops, and that some community consultation should occur before new shops open. There is over saturation of these shops in a way that would never occur with liquor stores or even pharmacies (extensive public consultation is required for new business licences). If these are meant to be "medicinal" shops, then the same rules that apply to pharmacies should apply to them.


      Apr 23, 2015 at 2:24pm

      So... basically a cash grab by the City, something that is still illegal in Canada (it's a federal thing), and lots of legitimization. Several (many?) of these places have toke lounges inside too, for "safe, serene, laissez faire" smoking of joints. Which the city will license.

      Yeah. Tell u what - try opening a cigar lounge in Vancouver and see what the city does. What? Both are burning stuff. Both produce carcinogens. Both involve combustion. But toking = good, cigar smoking = super evil dastardly.

      Meanwhile, the city's growing vaping community, many of them just trying to quit smoking, are getting the shaft - by both the city and the province. Vaping now falls under the same bylaw bullshit as smoking does in Vancouver, even if you're nicotine free. Vape in a park? Get a fine. Vape at work? Get fired. Vape in the bathroom at the bar? Get fined, kicked out, banned. Don't vape within 30 feet of an access door. Blah blah blah. Of the three things (pot, smokes, vapes), vaping is by far and away the least harmful to both the user and bystander, and gets treated the same as the worst, and not even on equal footing with the mid. The province is about to bring the banhammer down on vaping, so no more sampling in vape shops. But CoV will be fine with toke lounges.

      So. fucked. up. Hey, I want pot legalized. Then tax the fuck out of it, restrict it like crazy... as much, if not more than smokes + alcohol. But I'm fed up with the "hey man, don't harsh my mellow" BS around it.