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Vernon takes a wait-and-see approach to pot shops

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WATCH ABOVE: Two Okanagan cities are taking very different approaches to a practice that is widespread in B.C. but still illegal: selling medical marijuana through dispensaries. Megan Turcato reports. – Aug 17, 2016

Two Okanagan cities are taking very different approaches to a practice that is widespread in B.C. but still illegal: selling medical marijuana through dispensaries.

Osoyoos recently passed a bylaw that effectively bans the storefronts and some other types of marijuana businesses.

However, Vernon council says it won’t follow that approach. Instead the north Okanagan city has to decided to let the stores stay open and wait and see what the federal government does.

“If the federal government is making changes to the laws regarding cannabis, we should wait until those regulations come forward rather than wasting RCMP’s valuable resources [and] the city’s valuable resources,” Vernon’s mayor, Akbal Mund, said.

Mund feels that if the city did try to take action on pot shops, the rules would be difficult to enforce. The mayor argues that any crackdown would lead to controversy but little change.

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The president of one of Vernon’s dispensaries, MMJ Total Health Care, is happy that city hall is taking a hands-off approach.

“That’s kind of been [the city’s] attitude since day one and [it] allows us to continually help people that need medical cannabis,” Jeff Gaudette said.

Recently, the federal government reiterated that the storefronts are still against the rules.

“Storefronts selling marijuana, commonly known as ‘dispensaries’ and ‘compassion clubs,’ are not authorized to sell cannabis for medical or any other purposes. These operations are illegally supplied, and provide products that are unregulated and may be unsafe,” wrote Health Canada in a statement on its website.

But Gaudette defends the safety of his products and his business model.

“They are going to say whatever they need to say to make the law black-and-white,” Gaudette said. “If anything we are taking illegal supply off the black market and we are putting it generally into people’s hand that aren’t going to resell it for profit.”

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The federal government has promised that next spring it will begin the process of changing Canada’s laws to legalize marijuana.

– With files from Angela Jung and Adam Frisk