Vancouver dispensary, home to Canada’s first marijuana vending machine, vows to stay open

One of the vending machines at the the BC Pain Society's location in the 2900 block of Commercial Drive.

Two years ago, the BC Pain Society’s marijuana dispensary at Commercial Drive and West 13th Avenue became an online sensation after it installed Canada’s first vending machine for pot.

READ MORE: Marijuana vending machine comes to Vancouver

Now, the organization’s owner is saying it will fight to keep the location open, despite an order to close by the city.

“They are saying they’re going to start some sort of enforcement on Saturday. I’m ready, I’ve been talking to a number of lawyers, and I’m looking at my options,” says Chuck Varabioff, owner of the BC Pain Society.

“I don’t agree with it. I don’t agree with it at all. We’re providing a service here for sick people.”

Last week, the City of Vancouver announced it would be begin closing dispensaries across the city that don’t have a permit.

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READ MORE: City to begin enforcement for medical marijuana dispensaries

Over 150 dispensaries applied for a licence last year, but just 20 have either been approved or are under review.

Many of them, including Varabioff’s Commercial Drive location, were rejected for a licence because they are within 300 metres of a school or community centre.

Dispensaries that were denied a licence but already open were given six months to re-locate to avoid problems with permitted zones or distancing regulations.

“The ticketing system and the enforcement is not meant to penalize, it’s meant to bring people into compliance,” said Andreea Toma, chief licence inspector with the City of Vancouver.

Toma says the enforcement process is threefold; one is ticketing, which can be $250 per violation per day.

The other is prosecution through the BC Court, where fines can be allocated up to $10,000.

Varabioff has says that in the short-term, he’ll pay the fines if bylaw officers visit his dispensary.

“It’s not only Vancouver we’re serving, we’re serving all of B.C… there’s a need for it,” he says.

“We’re open 365 days a year, I’m staying open.”

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– With files from Estefania Duran

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