Few Vancouver marijuana dispensaries move on in application process while others ordered closed

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      Vancouver marijuana dispensaries that did not submit a licence application last summer must close their doors “immediately”, the city has warned, or “be subject to enforcement action”.

      “The City inspects these businesses regularly,” states an October 26 media release. “As with other businesses, the City will use a range of enforcement tools, including fines and legal action.”

      That was included in an update on a licensing process that the city began last June with the adoption of a new legal framework for marijuana-related businesses.

      There are more than 90 cannabis dispensaries operating in Vancouver. According to city spokesperson Jason Watson, the number affected by the warning to close is two.

      "Only two did not apply," he explained. "Orders have been sent‎ by city for them to cease operations."

      Today it was also revealed that just 11 of 176 applications the city received meet all zoning requirements and are ready to proceed to phase two of the procedure.

      “These applicants are eligible to move forward with a development permit review, which includes an opportunity for public input,” reads the city’s media release. “Consistent with city-wide development permit processes, a sign will be posted on each site and a notification will be mailed to addresses in a two block radius.”

      Among Vancouver’s new rules for medicinal marijuana dispensaries are stipulations that shops can only operate within certain areas zoned for commercial use; that they cannot be located within 300 metres of a school, community centre, or facilities for vulnerable youth; and that two shops not stand within 300 metres of one another.

      An additional 30 of the 176 applications met all zoning requirements with the exception of the rule that prevents two dispensaries from operating in close proximity. Those businesses now have six months to submit a new application for an alternative location. Of these 30 applicants, those that have stores operating today are allowed to continue selling marijuana during this six-month period.

      “The applications in these ‘clusters’ will be evaluated and scored based on criteria established in the bylaw,” states the release. “In each cluster, the operator with the best score can continue in the permits and licensing process at that location. The other applicants in the cluster will be given six months to secure a different site that meets zoning requirements and submit a development permit application for the new site.”

      The remaining 135 applicants failed to meet additional zoning requirements. They can also submit a new application for a different location and will be permitted to continue selling marijuana from their current address for the next six months.

      As previously reported by the Straight, stage two of the process is described by the city as “de-clustering” and involves a $504 inspection fee as well as the evaluation process that will determine which businesses within 300 metres of one another will have to move to another location.

      During stage three, applicants will have to demonstrate they are compliant with the city’s new bylaws for marijuana businesses. That's when operators will also have to pay for the city’s new class of business licence. For the majority of dispensaries, the fee is $30,000. For a smaller number that meet requirements for “compassion clubs”, the fee is $1,000.

      While the city received 176 applications for medicinal marijuana businesses, today it is estimated there are roughly 100 storefronts operating in Vancouver. Of those locations, the only dispensaries the city has ordered closed immediately are those that failed to submit an initial licence application by a deadline of August 21.

      The city did not reveal the names or addresses of the 11 businesses it approved for phase two of the process. That information is scheduled for release in “early November” when an “opportunity for public input” will begin. Owners of those businesses will be informed of their status via letters that are reportedly already in the mail.

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