Canada's public safety minister tells VPD its officers are expected to act against marijuana dispensaries

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      Canada’s minister of public safety has weighed in on Vancouver’s plan to regulate the over-the-counter sale of medicinal marijuana

      An April 28 letter co-signed signed by Steven Blaney and Health Minister Rona Ambrose emphasizes the storefront sale of cannabis is illegal and warns Vancouver not to go ahead with a proposed legal framework for the industry.

      “We are deeply concerned about upcoming council discussions on a proposal to ‘regulate’ illegal drug dispensaries,” it reads. “Storefront sales of marijuana legitimize and normalize the use of marijuana and can have only one effect: increasing marijuana use addiction,” it continues.

      The letter is similar in content and tone to an April 23 letter sent from Ambrose to Mayor Gregor Robertson. However, the new letter is different in that it expands the feud between Ottawa and Vancouver from the area of health to that of law enforcement. In addition to the inclusion of the public safety minister’s signature, the April 28 document was also sent to the Vancouver Police Department.

      “Storefront sales of marijuana are illegal and under our government, will remain illegal,” the letter reads. “Like the vast majority of Canadians, the Government expects that police will enforce the laws of Canada as written.”

      In a telephone interview, VPD Const. Brian Montague said the department’s position on dispensaries was set out years ago and remains the same today.

      “The city may be looking at licencing and permits and that sort of thing, but our priorities haven’t changed,” the VPD spokesperson told the Straight. “Our priority continues to be violent drug offenders in our city. And while these illegal marijuana stores are a low priority, they can become a priority if public safety becomes an issue. That has been our stance all along and it will continue to be.”

      The rules Vancouver has proposed went before city council on April 28, at which point they were referred to a public hearing. A date for that meeting has yet to be scheduled.

      For years, Vancouver marijuana dispensaries have operated in violation of federal law. The VPD has long maintained that while the sale of marijuana is illegal, it does not have the resources to shut down every dispensary in the city, nor does it consider the shops a policing priority.

      If and when council adopts the proposed legal framework for dispensaries—which consists of a new category of business licence, revised bylaws, and zoning amendments all specifically designed for the sale of marijuana—the rules will apply to the more than 80 cannabis shops already operating within the city of Vancouver.

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      Scott B.

      Apr 29, 2015 at 5:11pm

      I choose not to obey laws that don't impact public safety? So any law, so long as it does not threaten public safety is now optional? Really? When did the system of law in Canada become up to individuals or in this case city Councils become optional? Doesn't anyone see what this implies? It means, I don't have to pay city taxes, because it does not threaten public safety now? As an individual I can opt out of any such law?

      One may not agree with a law, but we have systems in place to contest any law. Simply ignoring it is not one of them. That is anarchy and it will come back to bite the city. If they can disobey any law they choose then so can anyone else.

      The VPD is making a big mistake.

      Mark Murphy

      Apr 29, 2015 at 5:16pm

      The only response to anything the Harper government says is, "See you in court."


      Apr 29, 2015 at 5:31pm

      Screw you Ottawa! If you want to shutdown the shops send in your federal lackeys. The Cons are making a mistake with the anti-weed activism: it isn't going to increase their vote totals. Anyone who is so close minded to believe prohibition works and bothers to vote is already a Con supporter. Some soft Cons may slip to the Liberals if they don't drop the ball in the west...again.


      Apr 29, 2015 at 6:07pm

      Hopefully when the next COV report comes forward Citizens will be able to compare the number of robberies at pharmacies in Vancouver to those at pot-shops/dispensaries. Further investigations should be made to see if street crime such as B and E's and theft from vehicle are more prevalant in the catchement areas of these store-fronts as we see with most skytrain stations.
      We've already seen an explosion in pizza by the slice outlets.

      David Malmo-Levine

      Apr 29, 2015 at 6:51pm

      "One may not agree with a law, but we have systems in place to contest any law." Let me explain a little something to you about our so-called "systems in place". We had two million dollar Royal Commissions - the LeDain Commission and the Senate Report - both have been ignored. The cannabis community went to the Supreme Court of Canada in 2003 - we were told we were similar to cannibals and there was no such thing as the "harm principal" as a principle of fundamental justice - it was OK to harm the harmless. For over 15 years public opinion polls have been ignored. Our referenda system is the most difficult in the world - if Sensible BC had attempted to get their decrim initiative passed in any US State it would have been on the ballot. So don't tell me about the "systems" - they're broken, they don't work, they weren't designed to. Go tell Daniel Possee's dad about how awesome our system is - Daniel was shot and killed by the RCMP in 1992 over a half-ounce of cannabis. If you expect us to wait around for another Royal Commission or some other deadly raid to happen to us ... if you expect us to limit our activities to a letter-writing campaign ... if you think we should not protest this obvious injustice ... this joke of a war ... this war on flowers ... this war on the happy, hungry, relaxed people ... this war on an intelligent preference ... well, it appears you haven't read any history books and you don't know us at all.

      Chief Chu looks ready

      Apr 29, 2015 at 8:53pm

      Chu looks ready to spin around and punch the Con in the face -- notice his clenched right hand?

      I'd pay money to see that.

      Harper Regime vs The Truth

      Apr 29, 2015 at 8:59pm

      “Storefront sales of marijuana legitimize and normalize the use of marijuana and can have only one effect: increasing marijuana use addiction,”

      Well, I've always said, if you want to know the truth on a matter, take the Harper Regime's statements, spin them 180 degrees, and there's the truth.

      Sometimes I hate being proven right.

      “Like the vast majority of Canadians, the Government expects that police will enforce the laws of Canada as written.”

      Once again, like the vast majority of Canadians, we expect the government to write and enact laws that reflect our wishes. Then they can be enforced as written.

      The Conservatives (Harper Regime) really seem to hate it when a bit of democracy breaks out that's counter to their ideologies.


      Apr 30, 2015 at 3:34am

      Sheesh, first Insite, then the pipeline fiasco, now this bullshit. These Cons need to read a fucking book about BC already and stop with the constant meddling and stupid bullshit. This province was built on logs, gold and silver, fish, crooked deals, and tons upon tons of sweet, sweet drugs. Blaney needs to stay in fucking Sherbrooke and shut the fuck up.


      A Seriously Annoyed BC Guy

      Kris K

      Apr 30, 2015 at 6:06am

      We are in the final days of prohibition, within a year or two these shops will be selling to the general public. People who require cannabis for medicinal purposes should be allowed to grow their own and not have to go through a regime set up for corporate profit. In the 1930's alcohol was regulated and this was a factor in ending the depression. The legalization of cannabis will give this economic wasteland we used to call Canada a much needed shot in the arm.

      Dave C

      Apr 30, 2015 at 6:34am

      Tell the Feds to worry about their mismanagement of the country and get out of BC's business