Cities debate marijuana dispensary authority

Not all are ready to follow Vancouver, Victoria in defying federal law to manage purportedly medical pot stores

'Bongy' promotes a head shop in Esquimalt

With medical marijuana dispensaries continuing to open in defiance of federal law, more B.C. communities have joined the call for local authority to regulate what are often little more than retail pot stores.

Lower Mainland communities found majority support at last week’s Union of B.C. Municipalities convention to bypass legal wrangling over medical marijuana access, as a court challenge continues against the Conservative government’s strict controls on growing and selling it legally.

Maple Ridge Coun. Corisa Bell said other cities are facing the same issues as Vancouver, where about 100 dispensaries have opened in a free-for all with street-level marketing to young people. Vancouver ignored instructions from federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose to use authorized sources of medical marijuana, and adopted a licensing system last spring to keep pot shops away from schools, community centres and each other.

Vancouver set a licence fee of $30,000 for dispensaries and $1,000 for non-profit “compassion clubs,” with Victoria preparing to follow suit. But other communities don’t have the same revolutionary zeal.

Esquimalt Coun. Susan Low, whose community banned the pipe-headed mascot “Bongy” from hawking wares of a marijuana paraphernalia store in 2013, said she isn’t qualified to regulate medical pot. The Lower Mainland proposal also doesn’t prevent a patchwork of different rules in adjoining communities, Low said.

Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart said the latest resolution seems intended to stick to municipal authority over location and zoning, but it doesn’t say so explicitly, and the UBCM loses credibility when it wanders outside its mandate.

Port Alberni Coun. Jack McLeman said he supports the two-year-old UBCM endorsement of legalizing pot, although his drug of choice for pain is Scotch whisky. He said his council has been approached about medical dispensaries, and invited applications, but no one followed through.

“Just legalize the junk,” McLeman said. “Don’t tell me it’s your aspirin.”

Maple Ridge Coun. Craig Speirs drew laughter from delegates when he said there was “some consternation” when his city’s first dispensary opened, “but it’s proved to have a calming effect on the neighbourhood.”

The motion to support municipal control over pot stores passed in a show of hands, with about one third of those attending opposed.

Just Posted

Fill the fire engines in District 69 for 2018

Firefighters set to conduct annual food and toy drive

Grandmothers to Grandmothers host annual Christmas Extravaganza

Crafts, baked goods, knitting and many more homemade treasures available at fundraiser

Vancouver Island brewery re-brands again after cryptic new logo failed

Victoria-based brewers said goodbye to confusing hexagon logo

Gridiron Whalers go marching past Saints

Ballenas defence holds off surging Langley to secure spot in playoff quarterfinals

VIDEO: Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee dies

Marvel co-creator was well-known for making cameo appearances in superhero movies

Surging Rangers beat visiting Canucks 2-1

Goalie Lundqvist ties Plante on all-time wins list

VIDEO: Newcomer kids see first Canadian snowfall

Children arrived in Canada with their mother and two siblings last week from Eritrea

Calgary 2026 leader expects close vote in Winter Games plebiscite

Residents to choose in a non-binding vote on Tuesday whether they want city to bid on 2026 Olympics

Feds dropped ball with WWI anniversary tributes: historians

Wrote one historian: ‘Other than the Vimy Ridge celebration … I think they have done a very bad job’

Sides ‘far apart’ in Canada Post talks despite mediation, says union

The lack of a breakthrough means rotating strikes will resume Tuesday

Feds’ appeal of solitary confinement decision in B.C. to be heard

Judge ruled in January that indefinite such confinement is unconstitutional, causes permanent harm

B.C. health care payroll tax approved, takes effect Jan. 1

Employers calculating cost, including property taxes increases

Nunavut urges new plan to deal with too many polar bears

Territory recommends a proposal that contradicts much of conventional scientific thinking

Most Read