Vancouver Councillor Wants to Halt Licensing Program and Close Dispensaries

Vancouver Councillor Melissa De Genova is putting forward a motion at this week’s council meeting that aims to halt the city’s dispensary license application program as well as shut down dispensaries already operating.

“I do want to see medical marijuana dispensaries in Vancouver, I just want to make sure that as we go through this process we’re considering that we’ve only got one chance to really do this right, and I want to make sure that we do,” said De Genova.

De Genova, who supports legalization, said she has issues with the city’s program, as it will cause some of the city’s not-for-profit compassion clubs to close their doors.

“Of the current dispensaries that are open, many of those need to be closed, including the compassion clubs and other non-profits that have provided cancer patients, and people suffering from chronic pain, and many other illnesses, who not only rely on marijuana as a form of their medicine, but also need to be able to purchase it at an affordable cost,” she said. “We’re not respecting the long term medical marijuana dispensaries that also have wellness components to them that have been serving clients for years.”

De Genova said she has also taken issue with the city’s plans that say dispensaries can’t sell edible forms of cannabis medication to patients.

“It’s quite hypocritical,” she said. “We’re doing this to allow people to access their medicine but we’re not allowing edibles, which the Supreme Court…ruled was important that people should legally have access to.”

The councillor wants the city to put a moratorium on all applications on dispensaries and all those shops already in the city by the end of April as new federal rules around cannabis could make the city’s work moot. De Genova said she would like to see an exemption made to allow compassion clubs to remain open.

“Let’s take a few months at least to work with the federal government, to sit down at the table with them,” she said. “[Let’s] try and see how their process and our process will fit. Will it work together? Are there changes we can make now in the approval process, so these 14 that we approve, in two years we’re not telling them they need to move or they need to make changes?”

De Genova said the city’s only recourse for shutting down non-compliant dispensaries are fines and lengthy injunctions, leaving the disobeying dispensaries open long after they’ve been ordered to close, while dispensaries have paid thousands of dollars to operate through the city’s framework.

“I just think that that’s not fair and it creates an unequal system,” she said.

Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson said the city has no plans to stop its ongoing process of licensing dispensaries.

“It is the same backward approach that the Harper Conservative government had and it failed,” said Robertson, of De Genova’s motion. “We are looking forward to new federal standards and an approach to marijuana.”

De Genova said she knows the mayor’s views on the dispensaries are more widely supported by council, but she’s trying to draw attention to what she sees as a larger issue down the road.

“What I’m trying to do here is make sure that we look at a long-term system that works for everyone; that works for the non-profits, the compassion clubs, those who do own retail dispensaries and, most of all, those who actually have to access medical marijuana,” De Genova said. “By implementing a system that’s certainly just going to go through changes in two years it might be a disservice to them.”