A Vancouver church presented a petition with 1,800 signatures to the city on Monday, requesting that officials reject a nearby dispensary application that has advanced to the next stage of the business licensing process.

Eden Medicinal Society‘s application at 3441 Kingsway was approved by administrators, out of a pool of 176 other dispensaries in the city, after conforming to all necessary requirements including being 300 metres or more from schools and community centres, but the nearby St. Mary’s Parish say the operation isn’t far enough.

“3441 Kingsway is close to Carleton Elementary School (400 metres),” read the petition, spearheaded by St. Mary parishioner Mildred Moy.  “While this falls just outside the City’s by-law restriction, it is still very close.”

Spokesperson Danny Kresnyak said it’s unfortunate that the group doesn’t want the business in the community, but dispensaries like Eden can help revitalize neighbourhoods.

“If anything, the areas where our dispensaries have moved in have become an anchor for the rest of the block,” said Kresnyak. “A lot of these retail spaces were dead spaces because people were afraid to go there, but now, we open a dispensary and it provides a certain amount of foot traffic.

Kresnyak said with such a strict, controlled and regulated business he doesn’t understand what the church members think the danger to their neighbourhood will be

Moy said cannabis is a gateway drug that leads to other abuses.

Richard Lange, another church member and signatory, said, if it was up to him, cannabis would never be legal.

“We know how serious addictions can be and how devastating on family and friends it can be,” Lange said.

Kresnyak said there’s no scientific evidence that cannabis is addictive or toxic and the views from church members are part of an outdated narrative that most people today disagree with.

“The gross majority of the Canadian voting population has seen through the ‘gateway drug’ idea,” said Kresnyak. “A good portion of the people that we help are people that have gotten off addictions – people that have gotten off alcohol, people that have gotten off opiates.”

The petition from Moy said that Eden’s track record “is difficult to assess” but Kresnyak said they’ve earned a reputation as a top-level patient care dispensary by “providing an uncompromising level of care and the highest quality product” for several years.

Those that signed the petition were welcomed by Kresnyak to contact him or visit one of his locations to discuss perceived issues with the Kingsway location.

“We don’t want to have any contention with anyone in one of our neighbourhoods,” said Kresnyak. “I will personally give them a tour, I will show them what we do, I will introduce them to people that have found it incredibly effective. They will notice when they come to our location that they’re not hotbeds of crime.”

“Any single person that signed that petition, if they want to contact me directly and we can talk about, not just how we can make it part of the community, but a vital and wonderful thing that can come into the community.”

Kresnyak said he would be concerned if the petition had an impact on the city’s decision, after the business has complied with the regulations and restrictions already established.

“We’ve jumped through every hoop that the city has put in front of us to make sure that we’re doing this properly,” he said. “Why is this group’s voice more important than the patients’ and advocates’? Why is it that these people’s names are more effective?”

Ultimately, Kresnyak feels that the two groups should work together to ensure that all voices are heard as they have many similar goals.

“On Christmas Day, I was in Oppenheimer Park with a group of people from Eden,” said Kresnyak. “We got twenty boxes of blankets and mittens and a few hundred sandwiches and just stood there and handed them out. There were other groups that day in the park — they were all church groups.”

“Why is it it that we’re working separately?”