FOI request reveals Vancouver city hall perplexed by medicinal marijuana

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      There’s confusion at 12th and Cambie about how Vancouver should regulate its burgeoning market for medicinal marijuana, according to documents released in response to a Straight freedom of information request.

      But one councillor appears to have taken a clear stance on cannabis. That’s Vision Vancouver’s Kerry Jang, who in March 2014 received a letter of gratitude for letting his position be known.

      “As a non user I would like to personally thank you for your commitment to these patients and their right to their medicine,” one citizen wrote. “Thank you for having a set of balls counsellor, they are much needed and appreciated.” (The author’s name is redacted in accordance with privacy laws.)

      Jang has consistently opposed new federal rules for medicinal marijuana that require the drug only be distributed via mail order. Although storefront dispensaries are illegal in Canada, Jang—along with the Vancouver Police Department—has repeatedly stated that dispensaries do not meet law-enforcement agencies’ criteria for “priority” targets.

      Other emails included in the document release posed questions about whether or not storefronts require special licences from the city. Another asks how complaints about marijuana odour should be addressed. “Legal or not we don’t regulate smells,” a city property inspector wrote in response to the latter.

      A third apparent area of confusion is raised in an email thread that includes city manager Penny Ballem. That correspondence concerns how one would acquire the necessary permissions to grow medicinal marijuana in a commercial greenhouse.

      “This does go on and on and I can’t really make head nor tail of it,” Ballem wrote in September 2013. “Do want to understand what is going on can whoever is dealing with this get back to me”.

      There were about 40 storefront dispensaries operating in Vancouver as of May 2014, the documents state. Shop openings peaked in 2013 and then fell sharply through the first half of this year.

      The Straight filed a freedom of information request with the VPD similar to the one it sent to the city that resulted in the release of the documents discussed here. The police department responded with a fee estimate of more than $6,160. That decision is being appealed.

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      Sid Chow Tan

      Sep 10, 2014 at 2:19pm

      Brought this up over a decade ago. Got lost in the Vision Vancouver kool-aid.

      I propose all residents of Vancouver do their duty in the so-called war on drugs and grow eight marijuana plants in their home. Growers could enjoy the harvest in personal use, gifts to family and friends or contributions to worthwhile causes. The Compassionate Club comes to mind.

      An eight-plant immunity would eliminate the electrical dangers of illegal grow-ops, the result of oppressive laws that many Canadians oppose. If enough citizens do their duty, we could soon be rid of the criminals who profit from the market-driven prices of marijuana as the so-called war ensues.

      What is needed is clarification about the city's intentions. It is clear the enforcement strategy is aimed at those tearing up interiors, stealing power and causing problems for their neighbours. What is the threshold limit of plants Vancouver citizens can grow?

      Eight plants is an auspicious number. It would be enough for personal use and a small surplus. This grassroots action would restore the financial profit as common wealth and allows the industrious opportunities.

      The downside? A market in grow-options will develop, prompting the for demand a higher plant limits. Also, Canadians, particularly those in Vancouver, could then lay claim to the best marijuana in the world, courtesy of our enlightened Mayor and police department.

      And in the context of free trade, wouldn’t it drive the Americans more nuts!

      Jamie Shaw

      Sep 26, 2014 at 4:59pm

      Thanks for the shout-out the BC Compassion Club Sid Chow Tan!

      I believe the cities desired approach has been laid out for over a decade in its Four Pillars drug policy, it's just a shame other levels of government have kept the cities hands tied.