With only a few days remaining before the city has required the vast majority of medical dispensaries to close, the Vancouver cannabis community came together last night to discuss the shut down order and discuss next steps.
Hosted at the Cannabis Culture Lounge, organizer Jodie Emery said she was motivated by the city’s described “drop dead date” to bring everyone together.
Emery said the industry had grown so large over the last few years that she didn’t recognize many attending the meeting but, as an activist, didn’t want to see any dispensaries shut their doors.
“It worries me a lot that the City of Vancouver is moving forward to shut down dispensaries because, as we all know, the regulations were not well thought out,” Emery said. “They refused to take the recommendations after three or four days of endless testimony, and the rules are not being equally enforced.”
Cannabis Growers of Canada Executive Director Ian Dawkins said the meeting was an opportunity to coordinate strategies on how to respond to the city’s closure threats.
“We were delighted to see the community come out and move towards cooperating on this important issue,” said Dawkins. “It’s good to see everyone talking and putting aside past differences, it’s important that we put together as much of a united front as possible on this issue so the city knows that they can’t just pick us off one at a time.”
Dawkins said it’s that unity that is one of the best resources for independent medical dispensaries and urged them to coordinate with one another.
Lawyer Kirk Tousaw said there’s uncertainty with what methods the city will use to enforce closure, but wanted to stress that dispensary operators have the power to fight the methods every step of the way.
“The idea that there’s going to be just voluntary compliance with an arbitrary shut down date seems to be, pardon the pun, a bit of a pipe dream,” Tousaw said.
Tousaw said he hasn’t talked to many dispensary operators that plan to shut down this Friday and didn’t think it would be realistic for the city to expect it to happen, especially considering the number of shops that have opened over the last few years.
“It’s become a massive undertaking for the city to take enforcement action,” Tousaw said. “One of the things the City of Vancouver has to be thinking about is, ‘if we have 60, 80, 100 unauthorized uses ongoing in the city do we have the time, do we have the resources and do we have the political will to be on the wrong side of this issue?’
“This is not, in my view, a comfortable position for the city of Vancouver to be in.”
Tousaw encouraged all dispensary operators to fight the city’s shut down requests, whether they come in the form of letters, bylaw ticketing or seeking orders to shut down the dispensary from the courts, but Dawkins said many shops don’t have the funds for long legal battles.
“One of our best dispensary members is shutting his doors before the 29th, and it’s because he doesn’t have the resources to fight this,” Dawkins said. “He’s a family man and he doesn’t want to drag his family into some contentious legal issue over selling controlled substances.”
Dawkins said there is a lot of misinformation and a lack of transparency from City Hall.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen on Friday, I don’t know what the city’s plans are because they’re consistently saying one thing and then doing another,” said Dawkins. “One one hand we have the city telling us privately that they won’t be aggressive, especially with people who haven’t had their board of variance hearings yet and, on the other, you have Kerry Jang saying they’re going to immediately shut down 100 dispensaries.”
“It’s complete anarchy, and if the city really wants to reform the dispensary situation in Vancouver and bring some clarity to it, this is not the way to do it.”