Webstock Vancouver / Photo Mike wakefield Dec 6/11 / Webstock Vancouver / Photo Mike wakefield Dec 6/11 / Vancouver courthouse /news

B.C. Supreme Court rules cities can regulate dispensaries

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ruled individual cities have the right to deny business licenses to dispensaries and prevent retail sales of cannabis through municipal zoning bylaws.

Justice Miriam Gropper ruled that while the federal government is responsible for cannabis laws, cities are entitled to come up with their own regulations regarding access.

Last March, the City of Abbotsford petitioned the Supreme Court to force the closure of Don Briere’s Mary Jane’s Glass and Gifts outlet . The city had maintained that because dispensaries are illegal under federal law, they could not issue a business licence andthat any dispensaries operating in the city are in breach of the city’s zoning bylaw and hence subject to fines.

The court rejected a challenge from Briere, who operates several dispensaries throughout the Lower Mainland, that the city was violating the Constitution by refusing to allow him to operate as well as restricting residents of the city from accessing medical products.

But Justice Gropper ruled that even though federal law allows for the legal use of cannabis for medical reasons, it doesn’t guarantee Canadians have the right to purchase it in a retail outlet.

“The existing federal law does not authorize access to medical marijuana by marijuana dispensaries,” wrote Justice Gropper.

Briere had originally argued that dispensaries would soon be legal given promised changes to federal laws and many of his clients unable to obtain medical products elsewhere due to disabilities or financial problems.

But the judge decreed that local concerns about land use was the focus of the bylaw and the city was within its rights to regulate such operations.

“In respect of the operators’ allegations of Charter breaches, the Attorney General argues and I agree that whether the [Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations] impairs access to medical marijuana is irrelevant in these proceedings,” Gropper ruled. “As noted, the existing federal law does not authorize access to medical marijuana by marijuana dispensaries. The operators’ position speculates about a future challenge to federal regulations, a matter that is not before me in this petition.”

“Hopefully it does get appealed,” wrote lawyer and cannabis advocate Kirk Tousaw on Facebook. “This will have a potential ripple effect on a lot of pending cases, though of course each bylaw is different and each case factually different.”

Click here to read the judge’s entire ruling.