NPA mayoral hopeful Kirk LaPointe outlines plans for marijuana dispensaries

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      Vancouver’s many medicinal-marijuana dispensaries don’t have much to worry about from potential changes at city hall. The consensus among candidates vying for the mayor’s chair and council seats is that the storefronts can stay, as long as they behave themselves.

      Depending on who is elected on November 15, that might involve playing by new bylaws, but nobody is proposing anything substantially different from unwritten rules already enforced by the Vancouver Police Department.

      Mayor Gregor Robertson’s main challenger, the Non-Partisan Association’s Kirk LaPointe, said he takes no moral position on the issue of medicinal marijuana.

      “It’s really just about bylaw enforcement and licensing,” LaPointe said in a telephone interview. “We would make sure that there is a good licensing process to determine how dispensaries ought to be overseen by the city, and set what are their conditions.”

      LaPointe told the Straight that, if elected, the NPA would introduce a class of business licence specifically for dispensaries. He argued that under Vision Vancouver, an entire industry has grown outside of any real regulatory framework.

      “That’s where the neighbourhoods are concerned,” LaPointe added. “They don’t understand how they’ve all popped up, why they’re there, what they’re doing, and what the city should be doing about them.”

      As of October 20, there were 46 medicinal-marijuana dispensaries op-erating in Vancouver, according to statistics supplied by the city. The storefronts are illegal under federal law but the VPD has repeatedly said they are not a priority for police action.

      Vision Vancouver councillor Kerry Jang maintained that the absence of a business-licence category for dispensaries doesn’t mean they aren’t regulated and monitored.

      He noted that in recent months the VPD has conducted enforcement measures against three marijuana shops. “Dispensaries that are dealing to children, dealing inappropriately, or dealing out the back door and things like that, we will crack down on them,” he said.

      COPE mayoral candidate Meena Wong described a position similar to that of the NPA. She said she supports the use of marijuana for medical purposes but argued that dispensaries require a greater degree of regulation than they currently receive under Vision.

      “Like alcohol and cigarettes,” she offered. “I’m sure that people would like to have clear rules and outlines so that they know what is going on.”

      As of October 20, 2014, there were 46 medicinal marijuana dispensaries in Vancouver, according to statistics supplied by the city.
      Charlie Smith

      Two independent mayoral candidates criticized Vision for the same reasons.

      Colin Shandler noted that today’s B.C. bud is significantly more potent than marijuana from the 1970s and 1980s. He said the drug therefore does need to be monitored in order to ensure standards for things like safety and cleanliness.

      “This is happening whether the average citizen likes it or not,” Shandler said. “We need to take it out from this legal grey and bring it into the light.”

      He described the spread of marijuana dispensaries in Vancouver as an opportunity for the city to collect tax revenue from a booming industry.

      Bob Kasting went one step further, suggesting that Vancouver look at legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

      “If you allow it to be sold as a regulated item like alcohol or tobacco or something, that’s a fairly sensible way to approach it,” he said.

      The Vancouver Greens also favour legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Their party isn’t running a candidate for mayor, but Coun. Adrianne Carr told the Straight she wants to work with whoever is elected in November to establish a clear set of rules for how marijuana dispensaries should open and operate.

      Carr noted that during the years that dispensaries have proliferated in and around Vancouver, she’s never seen a report on the issue come before council.

      “We’re in real grey water here right now, and rules need to be established,” Carr said. “I think we need to have a very honest discussion at the council table about the role of the city.”

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      Tara Sundberg

      Oct 22, 2014 at 5:05pm

      I am not opposed to Medicinal Marijuana, or even people using pot recreationally, but the status quo is completely unacceptable! There is total oversaturation. In my neighbourhood there has been ZERO public consultation and there are 7 "dispensaries" in a 14 block stretch of Commercial Drive. There is no way that many liquor store licences or medical pharmacies would be granted. The customers get in their cars, use their purchases and then drive away IMPAIRED!! If these "businesses" are going to be set up, let them PAY SOME TAXES!!! Help with the impact they are having on our communities.
      Take a stand, regulate, insist on business licences and do not oversaturate our neighbourhoods with "drugs".

      What We Need

      Oct 22, 2014 at 5:06pm

      We need a BC College of Cannabis Professionals or something, something like a combination college of physicians/college of pharmacists, except for marijuana only. That way, the industry can be self-regulated. The fact is, we still don't have any "out"/head politicians in power---Trudeau smoking a joint once in a while hardly counts, that would be like saying we had gay politicians as long as we had some guys in there who got head back in college once or twice.

      BC has the same POGG powers as Ottawa---when it comes to drugs/healthcare, there is a good argument to be made that the proper level of regulation is provincial.

      Martin Dunphy

      Oct 22, 2014 at 5:21pm


      Good to know you are following everyone who comes out of those 14 dispensaries and recording evidence of their immediate consumption habits. Presumably, you do this for all the liquor store customers as well.


      Oct 22, 2014 at 10:16pm

      Tara, these cannabis dispensaries are saturating your neighbourhood with jobs for young people. Most importantly, jobs for young stoners. If not for these dispensaries, they would be working in your local grocery stores.

      Since the wave of dispensaries flooded Vancouver, I have noticed a massive increase in grocery store checkout clerk sobriety and efficiency. No more waiting an extra 5 minutes for a clearly intoxicated millennial to fix a dozen scanning mistakes while giggling uncontrollably.

      We are now privileged to live in a glorious new era in vegetable price accuracy, and we owe it all to the brave folks who open and run cannabis dispensaries.

      Martin Dunphy

      Oct 22, 2014 at 11:26pm


      Also, those grocery stores would do well to massively increase their stock of Doritos.


      Oct 23, 2014 at 1:40am

      Cannabis users are an oppressed minority group, and your Doritos comment is what's known as munchy-shaming. It's a form of hate speech.

      Also, no one should eat Doritos, because they contain palm oil, and Palm Oil = Dead Orangutans

      It's not fair

      Oct 24, 2014 at 9:34am

      I live not far from the lower mainland, small coastal town. No head shops, no dispensaries, dealers underground I presume because I don't see any. Procurement for MM is online and regulated by the feds...expensive and contributing to a nasty centrist system ruled by our evil overlord SH. Vancouver could at least get the ball rolling, its got plenty of outed MM users and highly educated stoners who could open the door for the rest of the communities whose RCMP presence is overwhelming and thuggish. Make it legal or something, it basically is already.

      @It's not fair

      Oct 25, 2014 at 5:01pm

      You're absolutely right, and this is what tears me up about the situation---the iniquity of it all. We're all supposed to suffer under drug prohibition, or we're all supposed to be free. That one of Canada's largest cities has a de facto legalization of marijuana while people a few km down the Transcanada are busted for the same things, it's simply an unconstitutional situation that strikes at the heart of the rule of law.

      And in the end, it is because the City is not living up to its duty to enforce the controlled drugs and substances act. The only alternative is that cities and municipalities actually have no duty to enforce the controlled drugs and substances act. They may if they like, but they are free to leave off, if they like. But this could never reasonably be the result of an unwritten policy---the council and police board would have to enact this view publicly, and they never would because some idiot prohibitionist lawyer would bleat half-truths he learned from some American Law Professor in a Canadian Law School about how only the federal government can do this that or the other thing.

      As I said before, the solution to inadequate federal regulation isn't the current free-for-all in Vancouver with "unwritten" rules. The solution is a self-regulating provincial college. I can't put my finger on it, but I think this rubs a lot of people in the industry the wrong way---they've gotten used to being underground, which comes with a certain degree of freedom, something that is not possible in a regulated environment. Regulation means being subject to a disciplinary body, having professional ethics, having proof of having met that ethical standard by way of training, etc.

      But there's so much money being made as it is that there is really no incentive to switch to a proper professional model. The incentive there will mostly be for consumers, who will gain access to a legitimate profession, rather than a mixed bag of former stoners, drop-outs and altogether nice people who lack qualification.


      Oct 25, 2014 at 5:08pm

      So there should be no regulation of the sorts of fertilizers found in the end product? No legal market where strain names can be regulated? If I am buying some regional vintage from france, I can buy with confidence from regulated suppliers knowing that there are agreements, etc. that prevent people from passing knock-off vintages. What about regulation of mold content, yeast content, bacterial content, etc? What about regulation of the scales used in the transactions? You know those scales at the supermarket checkout are licensed, regulated and properly calibrated for use in trade, right? What about a method for preventing people who abuse the public trust from selling cannabis? You know, let's say someone in a medicinal dispensary is giving bad advice, habitually upselling his customers, etc. Isn't that unethical?

      If medical marijuana were a fraud, or if we had it all to do over again and go with straight legalization, I might agree with your view. But we don't, we've cast in our lot with the "medical" paradigm (not that marihuana isn't medicine, but it needn't be medicine to be legal) and what that means is that some level of regulation is necessary, given the trust typically reposed in the healing professions. A dope dealer does not have a fiduciary duty to his customers. A cannabis professional in the end does have such a duty and such a duty must be regulated by the collective of cannabis professionals, just as the pharmacists are self-regulating. That's the real thing gained by regulation of the appropriate type: self-government.