Dana Larsen: Vision Vancouver will lose marijuana dispensary war

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      Vision Vancouver has declared war on the city's medical marijuana dispensaries. No matter what the result, Vancouver will lose in the end.

      In the 1990s Vancouver city council went to war against bong shops. From 1996 to 1999, the Vancouver Police Department launched many raids against Marc Emery's bong business, including a lengthy hearing at city hall to remove the business licence from Emery's store, Hemp B.C.

      The city spent thousands of police hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars in these raids, repeatedly attacking Emery's bong and seed business.

      Yet 20 years later, the Emerys' shop continues to thrive, along with dozens of bong shops and seed banks across the city. Despite using the full strength of the city's enforcement, they were unable to stop bong shops from surviving and proliferating.

      Nowadays, we would look at Vancouver raiding bong shops as bizarre. Yes, Canada's antibong laws are still on the books, and bong shops sometimes get busted in small towns. But no one in Vancouver wants bong shops raided anymore, that is a thing of the past.

      That was a battle against just one store, and the city failed to permanently shut down bong shops. Now Vision Vancouver wants to close 100 established dispensaries? Good luck!

      ‎Even if Vision somehow succeeds in shutting down all these dispensaries, what will they accomplish? Not one gram less of cannabis will be sold in the city. It will simply return to the streetcorners, alleys, homes, and back rooms where it was sold before. Meanwhile, the 20 lucky stores allowed to remain open will have long lineups and cause parking problems in their comunities.

      Is this what Vision Vancouver wants to do? Return 90 percent of Vancouver's cannabis sales to the underground, unregulated, untaxed, unlicenced black market? How is that an improvement? How does that make Vancouver a safer, better city?

      When Vision Vancouver told dispensaries to stop selling edible cannabis medicines, we grumbled, but we complied. Then we were ordered to forbid patients using their medicine on the premises. We didn't understand why Vision wants medical users to smoke on the street and public places, instead of in a secure, private dispensary away from the public, but again we complied. We believed that accepting this kind of regulation was the first step on the path to business licences and civic acceptance.

      But despite this cooperation, Vision still wants to close 90 percent of the city's dispensaries. Their way of deciding who gets licenced has nothing to do with the quality of patient care or the length of time the dispensary has been safely operating in the community. All that Vision cares about is that dispensaries are far apart from each other, and that they are twice the distance from any school compared to a liquor store.

      Vision Vancouver has got the city into a pointless, expensive battle with no positive outcome. What a lost opportunity to develop responsible bylaws, and to be a leader in medical marijuana access!

      Ten years from now there will be over 200 dispensaries operating peacefully and safely in Vancouver, and people will look back at this conflict and wonder what all the fuss was about.

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