WATCH ABOVE: The City of Vancouver has voted to regulate marijuana dispensaries, thumbing its nose at the federal government. Rumina Daya reports.
The City of Vancouver has become the first city in Canada to regulate the marijuana industry.
Eight councillors voted in favour of the move and three voted against.
There are about 100 medical marijuana dispensaries in the city and the new bylaw will charge retailers a $30,000 licence fee and prevent the shops from operating within 300 metres of schools, community pot shops and other marijuana dispensaries.
Compassion clubs, which sells marijuana to patients suffering from chronic diseases, will only be charged a $1,000 licence fee.
Shops will now have 60 days to apply for a licence.
The city held four public information sessions before holding this vote and hundreds of people signed up to speak and voice their opinion.
“I think we knew there would be a lot of interest in this,” said City Manager Penny Ballem in early June. “This is unprecedented in the country. Vancouver stepped out to take this on and try and bring this retail area into a regulatory framework and it’s never been done.”
The federal government balked at the city’s proposal to regulate the dispensaries and in late April sent new letters to Vancouver’s council, police and health authority warning against regulation.
Health Minister Rona Ambrose and Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney co-signed a letter to council and police warning that storefront sales of marijuana are illegal.
“Like the vast majority of Canadians, the government expects that police will enforce the laws of Canada as written,” the letter said.
Councillor Geoff Meggs said on Wednesday Ambrose needs to “wake up.”
“You are completely out of touch with the realities on the ground,” he said. “The policies you are advocating are backward and destructive and have driven us to take the steps that are necessary here today.”
Councillor George Affleck, who voted ‘no’, said in chambers that he does not think voting yes will change anything. “I think we are going to head ourselves into a myriad of nightmare, litigious situations from every level of every kind of group.”
“Is this the battle that we want to have? Do we want to spend, potentially millions of dollars of taxpayer dollars, fighting in the courts on many many different fronts? I don’t think that’s responsible governance.”
Mayor Gregor Robertson voted ‘yes’ and said the city does need a “common sense approach” and that is why he is in favour.
Following the vote on Wednesday, Health Minister Rona Ambrose, released the following statement:
As Health Minister, I am deeply disappointed by the City of Vancouver’s decision to ‘regulate’ illegal marijuana storefronts across the city.
Marijuana is neither an approved drug nor medicine in Canada and Health Canada does not endorse its use. While Canadian courts have required the Government to allow access to marijuana when authorized by a physician, the law is clear that this must be done in a controlled fashion to protect public health and safety.
The evidence is clear that when youth smoke marijuana they have increased risks of mental health issues including psychosis and schizophrenia. The City’s own medical officials predict that dispensaries will make marijuana cookies and candies more accessible to youth
Marijuana storefronts form part of Justin Trudeau’s plan to make smoking marijuana a normal, everyday activity and make it available in stores across Canada just like alcohol and cigarettes. This Conservative Government wants to stop kids from smoking marijuana and we do not support making access to illegal drugs easier.
According to the Canadian Drug Use Monitoring Survey, marijuana use by youth has dropped by almost 45% since 2004 thanks to our efforts to educate families. This same survey reported that while 20% of youth smoked marijuana in 2012, 70% drank alcohol. Regulating marijuana in the same manner could mean as much as tripling its use by youth.
These stores have absolutely no regard for the rule of law and have been caught selling marijuana to kids – they represent Justin Trudeau’s vision for Canadian neighbourhoods from coast to coast to coast.
Storefronts selling marijuana are illegal and under this Conservative Government will remain illegal.
We expect the police to enforce the law.
– With files from The Canadian Press