City of Vancouver Continues with Dispensary Enforcement

The City of Vancouver said it will continue to update the number of cannabis dispensaries that have closed or been ticketed every week as officials move forward to enforce shutdown orders on the vast majority of the city’s medical storefronts.

This past weekend, the first after the Apr. 29 deadline given to dispensaries rejected from the city’s business licensing process, bylaw inspectors issued a total of 44 violation tickets – resulting in a fine of $250 per day that the businesses stay open.

Vancouver communications staff Tobin Postma also said, in an email, that the city has confirmed that 22 dispensaries have also closed their doors in compliance with city requests.

On their Facebook page, Eden Medicinal Society (which has had a location at 3441 Kingsway advance to the development permit stage) advised patients that their Hastings, Davie and Pender  locations would be closing soon.

“Change is inevitable,” read a post from the dispensary. “This is a turbulent time for dispensaries in Vancouver. Always know that Eden is committed to its patients and we will continue to be chameleons with these new City regulations.”

Operator of the BC Pain Society Chuck Varabioff, whose shop at 2894 E Broadway has also advanced to the development permit stage, has said he has no plans to shut down his other location on Commercial Drive.

Varabioff posted that he has put together “the best legal team money can buy” to file a petition to the B.C. Supreme Court for a review of the Board of Variance’s vote to reject his appeal of the city’s initial rejection of a business license for his Commercial Drive shop.

So far, the city has only used bylaw inspectors to enforce the shutdown orders, but in the future, authorities may involve police action.

Vancouver Police Department Constable Brian Montague said the VPD will only act when requested by the City, as police do not have authority to shut down businesses, even as cannabis dispensaries remain illegal under the Criminal Code of Canada.

“I, as a police officer, can’t go to a business and put chains on the door or board up the windows – even if the person behind the counter is committing a criminal act,” Montague wrote. “The city however, has the power to regulate land usage.”

Montague said, while there may be situations where police are called to assist on the issue, it remains up to city to determine how they choose to deal with dispensaries that choose to remain open past the deadline.

Lawyer Kirk Tousaw, who is representing several dispensaries in their fight against city hall, said enforcement of dispensaries will be expensive as every ticket and action against the businesses can be fought.

“My clients are willing to take whatever steps necessary and within the bounds of the administrative or judicial remedies available to them to allow them to continue to service their customers and to bring needed local access to medical cannabis to their membership,” Tousaw said.