Vancouver officially has its first dispensary licensed to sell medicinal marijuana

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      Vancouver now officially regulates the over-the-counter sale of marijuana.

      On Tuesday (May 17), the city granted a business licence to Wealth Shop Society at 4545 West 10th Avenue for the specific purpose of selling cannabis.

      It makes Vancouver the second city in Canada to grant such a licence. The B.C. city of Kimberley (population 7,600) beat Vancouver to it when it granted a licence to Tamarack Dispensaries last January.

      Wealth Shop isn’t actually selling cannabis at that location yet. That separates it from the majority of dispensaries still waiting for licences, many of which have been selling marijuana for two years or longer.

      The licence issued to Wealth Shop means Vancouver has entered the final phase of a process to regulate dispensaries that began when rules were first proposed in April 2015.

      Struggling with a proliferation of dozens of marijuana storefronts, the city said that, though the shops remain illegal under federal law, it would propose a regulatory framework aimed at bringing some order to the industry.

      Council voted to adopt the legal framework in June 2015.

      The regulations forbid marijuana shops from operating within 300 metres of a school or community centre. They also say shops should not stand within 300 metres of each other, and stay out of the Granville Entertainment District as well as the Downtown Eastside (as defined by the area around Main and East Hastings streets).

      In addition, the regulations forbid the sale of marijuana in the form of edibles such as cookies or brownies.

      The framework also carries heavy fees for shop owners. The new business licence for dispensaries requires operators to pay the city $30,000 per year in the way of an administration fee, plus a second annual zoning and development fee of a maximum of $5,100 (determined by a shop’s square footage).

      In addition to the business licence issued to Wealth Shop, the city has given nine dispensaries development permits that allow them to continue through the process for a licence.

      Dozens more that were denied development permits have filed appeals with the variance board. Those hearings are scheduled to continue through to November.

      City of Vancouver / Google Maps

      Meanwhile, the city has continued to issue tickets to unlicensed dispensaries since a deadline for those shops to close passed on April 29.

      According to data supplied by the city on May 18, there have been 139 tickets issued to date. Those are worth $250 each. So far, only seven have been paid.

      Since the deadline, 30 dispensaries have closed and 61 have remained open and are therefore subject to those fines applied on a daily basis.

      Separate from the city’s effort to regulate dispensaries, the federal government has said it will table legislation to legalize recreational marijuana in the spring of 2017.

      It is unclear how Vancouver’s dispensaries will fit into whatever model it is that Ottawa decides is the best way to regulate the cultivation, distribution, and sale of the drug.

      B.C. health minister Terry Lake has said he would support marijuana sold in liquor stores.

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