Lower Mainland mayors are keeping a close eye on Vancouver’s plan to regulate the over-the-counter sale of medicinal marijuana.
Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan told the Straight that in his city, the RCMP has been quick to act against anybody who’s tried to open a storefront dispensary. He said councillors are monitoring the situation in Vancouver, noting that attitudes are changing.
“When Washington and Colorado legalized marijuana, I think the dam was broken,” he explained. “There no longer is respect for laws against marijuana. That means there has to be a form of regulation.”
On the phone from Richmond, Mayor Malcolm Brodie said dispensaries have yet to become an issue there. “But what happens in one city can happen in the next,” he added. “So it is a matter of concern.”
Asked for his personal opinion on Vancouver’s proposed regulatory framework (which includes a new category of business licence, revised bylaws, and zoning amendments all specifically designed for the sale of marijuana), Brodie was critical of Health Canada’s medicinal marijuana system, which requires patients to access cannabis via mail order.
“The question that is being raised in Vancouver is a logical extension of what they’ve authorized,” he said. "There are a number of issues with the federal program,."
Surrey mayor Linda Hepner was out of town. Kim Marosevich, bylaw business operations manager, told the Straight there are no dispensaries in Surrey and the city intends to keep it that way.
In the City of North Vancouver, Mayor Darrell Mussatto revealed that council received a report on “the regulation of medical marijuana” at a May 1 session that was closed to the public. He declined to provide details but noted that a second in-camera meeting is scheduled for next week.
Mussatto reported that one dispensary has opened in North Vancouver. Asked about medicinal cannabis, he suggested the conversation society should be having is one about recreational marijuana. “I think the time has come,” Mussatto argued.
New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Coté similarly raised the examples of Washington State and Colorado. “The public’s perception of this issue is moving along and I think it’s time for us to recognize that,” Coté said. He however emphasized it should be the federal and provincial governments taking the lead instead of municipalities.
Squamish Mayor Patricia Heintzman said one dispensary is operating in her district, so far without attracting much attention. “At this point, it’s not a high priority for the police,” she said. “It’s not a huge issue here in Squamish.”
On May 7, Victoria city council is scheduled to debate various options for how best to deal with an increase in the number of marijuana-related businesses in the province’s capital. Staff have recommended a crackdown, but Mayor Lisa Helps told the Straight another option councillors will consider is to draft new regulations similar to what Vancouver has proposed.
Expressing her personal opinion, Helps described Vancouver’s plan as a “good idea”.
“If it is a medical issue, the federal minister of health needs to find a better process than mail order,” she said. “That is obviously not working.”
Additional mayors declined requests for interviews.