Vancouver Dispensaries to Fight Closure

Vancouver dispensaries who don’t receive a business licence from the city said they’ll file legal appeals to fight the decision. 

The city is currently going through 176 applications from existing and hopeful cannabis dispensaries and compassion clubs to see if they fit the city’s criteria for operation — such as being located further than 300 metres from schools, community centres and other dispensaries.

Councillor Kerry Jang estimated that, by the end of the process in December, only around 20 dispensaries will qualify for a license. 

“That’s based on me keeping track of all the various players and people who I’ve observed in the industry for these last few years,” Jang said. “I keep track of who, for example, has been caught selling to minors.”

Dispensary owners like BC Pain Society president Chuck Varabioff said a rejection letter from the city may begin a long appeal process or even litigation.

“I do know a lot of dispensaries will file lawsuits,” Varabioff said. “I’ll never file a lawsuit against the city, but I definitely would appeal if I’m told that I have to move.”

Owners rejected by the city are able to fight the decision at the Board of Variance which hears appeals on decisions about zoning, development and signage.

Jang said the majority of Vancouver‘s over 100 dispensaries are located close to one another and that the regulations will force new operations to spread out, to better serve the city’s medical cannabis patients.

On Commercial Drive, BC Compassion Club Society spokesperson Jamie Shaw said she expects the city to deny her operation a license as it is within 300 meters of private school CEFA Early Learning.

Shaw said, since 1997, the compassion club has served the severely ill and elderly as part of the neighbourhood without any problem with the school, which was built years afterward.

“Our best guess is that we will be turned down for the licence,” said Shaw. “We will go to the Board of Variance and hopefully they will understand that we’ve been here for 18 years.”

Weed’s Glass and Gifts owner Don Briere hoped one or two of the nine license applications he filed will be approved, but said he expected his businesses to be treated fairly in the process.

“If I see that there’s something funny going on, or favouritism seems to be going on, then I would consider filing a misuse of public resources action in civil court and sue for money,” Briere said.