The use of medical marijuana has been getting a lot of attention in Canada lately, with laws regarding how people are legally allowed to get it changing so much. Right now, people with a prescription are required to fill it at a government approved dispensary. In the past, they also had the option to grow it themselves or purchase it from a private grower. The change meant that the price of “legitimate” medical marijuana went up for the people who needed it the most.
But the change has also meant that there was room for a lot more medical marijuana dispensaries to set up shop and sell their product. In Vancouver, there are currently around 100 shops doing just that, which means it only makes sense that they would need to be regulated in some way.
The Vancouver city council voted to regulate and license the retailers, which requires them to pay a $30,000 licensing fee (the city’s highest permit cost), and also prevents shops from operating within 300 metres of community centres, schools, and other shops. They aren’t exactly making it easy for business owners with a fee like that, and dozens are expected to be forced to close for not meeting the standards.
Councillor Kerry Jang called the bylaw “a common-sense approach to dealing with the explosion of medical marijuana shops in our city.” He also clarified that they are “not regulating the product,” just “the business itself.”
The city held four nights of public hearings with various speakers fighting both for and against the bylaw. Although the bylaw received enough votes to pass (including one from Mayor Gregor Robertson), there were a few important people who were against the plan. One of those was Federal Health Minister, Rona Ambrose, who sent letters to Vancouver’s mayor and city councillors in an effort to sway them against the bylaw.
Ambrose reminded councillors that marijuana is illegal and allowing marijuana dispensaries to exist so openly would surely increase marijuana use and addiction in the city. Upon hearing the bylaw was passed, Ambrose released a statement that said, "I am deeply disappointed by the City of Vancouver's decision to 'regulate' illegal marijuana storefronts across the city. Storefronts selling marijuana are illegal and under this Conservative government will remain illegal. We expect the police to enforce the law.”
According to Councillor Geoff Meggs, the city of Vancouver decided to take action with the bylaw because the Federal government wasn’t addressing the problem adequately. The dispensaries are meant for people with a legitimate medical prescription, so shutting them all down won’t help anyone. At least this way the people who need marijuana for relief of symptoms of diseases like cancer, AIDS, and epilepsy will have a way to get it. If the shops follow the laws, there shouldn’t be a problem.
Besides, teenagers and recreational pot users have their own sources, and probably wouldn’t be going to a medical marijuana dispensary to score their drugs anyway.