Who is Regulating the Supply of Vancouver’s Dispensaries and Compassion Clubs?


There isn’t anything in Vancouver‘s cannabis dispensary regulations regulating supply, and the city told Cannabis Life Network they’re leaving that issue to the discretion of the Vancouver Police Department.

So I called the police.

My question was about the criteria the VPD are using to ensure gang-related suppliers aren’t getting the go-ahead at the expense of non-violent, non-gang related cannabis farmers and extraction crews. How is the VPD reconciling supply issues with the city’s by-laws that don’t take supply into account?

I used the example of the BC Compassion Club Society on Commercial Drive that is across from a school but sourcing their medicine from non-gang related growers.

These suppliers are the backbone of the British Columbia cannabis economy.

The city – staying silent on the supply question – will likely attempt to shut the BC Compassion Club down due to their close proximity to the school.

However, if another dispensary matches all the regulatory requirements but is suspected of having gang-relations, what then?

What if the VPD can’t exactly prove an association between a dispensary and organized crime?

It was a bit of a hypothetical question and VPD Constable Brian Montague didn’t want to speculate, but he assured me that city councillors held the upper hand.

Montague used the example of a food vendor buying stolen meat and reselling it.

The VPD would bring that issue to the attention of city council and they would use their by-law jurisdiction to shut down the business.

Vancouver Police don’t go around shutting down businesses at-will and Montague emphasized how ineffective the federal Criminal Code was for that purpose.

Montague told CinC that the police have, “zero desire to interfere with the regulations.”

So, shutting down medical cannabis dispensaries is ultimately up to the city bureaucracy.

Apart from selling to minors or having connections to organized crime, there isn’t any legal criteria over supply.

Vancouver police won’t engage with patient-growers that – allegedly – sell or share excess medicine with compassion clubs. But, they will investigate gang-related dispensaries when the information is brought to their attention.

Police have limited resources and would rather focus on more serious crimes.

The question of supply, and how this relates to the competence and consumer approval of certain dispensaries over others, is being left to the city regulators who have, thus far, chosen to ignore it.

There is nothing to stop regulators from shutting down non-gang related dispensaries near schools or community centres while leaving potential gang-related dispensaries open because they fit arbitrary zoning and aesthetic requirements from the city.

There is some communication between the VPD and the city bureaucracy over which dispensaries are gang-related, but the regulations have “no effect” on how Vancouver police deal with these dispensaries, currently.

All the police can do is investigate and bring information to the city’s attention.

Ultimately, it is the city’s bureaucracy that will decide who stays and who goes and, according to them, it’s got nothing to do with supply.