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.”
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.