Dispensaries Found Inconsistent in Vancouver

CTV News found Vancouver cannabis dispensaries are inconsistent when it comes to how patients access product.

The channel approached 10 shops over the past month to investigate how difficult it is to sign up for a membership. Reporters found some shops required a doctors note, some required a fee, while some simply required paperwork filled out.

Vancouver city officials said that’s going to change with the ongoing dispensary regulations headed by Councillor Kerry Jang. The city is looking at restricting dispensaries from operating within 300 metres of schools and community centres, along with other requirements. This summer, the city received 176 applicants to open, or continue operation of, cannabis dispensaries.

Jang said when dispensaries start receiving licenses in December, access to cannabis will be limited to those with a documented medical need.

“You can almost say anything in some of these shops and get pot. That’s not the intent,” Jang said. “It’s for folks who have a doctor’s prescription.”

Jang has been clear in letting the over 100 dispensaries in the city know that he expects there to be a maximum of 20 shops that qualify for a license.

Stressed and Depressed Dispensary owner David Malmo Levine said he already requires customers to have a medical prescription from a medical professional before they can access cannabis.

“I’m not worried about losing a few customers,” Levine said. “I want to jump through all the hoops so that I end up being one of the dispensaries that remains open.”

Vancouver Police Department Const. Brian Montague said it doesn’t matter how strict dispensaries are, under federal law it’s illegal to sell cannabis to anyone, even those who have Health Canada approval for medical cannabis.

The federal government only allows patients to purchase cannabis from government sanctioned licensed producers, who themselves are only able to sell to patients from online storefronts and deliver by courier.

“The bottom line is if a dispensary is selling marijuana they are doing something illegal,” Montague said. “Regardless of what someone shows them, regardless if they have a licence from Health Canada, regardless if they have a prescription from a doctor, it does not matter.”

Montague said, due to resources, the VPD will only target a dispensary selling to children, linked to gangs, or posing a public safety issue.