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As other Okanagan cities crack down, Vernon moves to allow existing pot shops

Click to play video: 'Vernon asks the public to weigh-in on pot shops' Vernon asks the public to weigh-in on pot shops
Vernon asks the public to weigh-in on pot shops – Jan 22, 2018

The City of Vernon is blazing a trail in the opposite direction of other Okanagan communities, which have tried shut down store-front cannabis sales.

On Monday night at a public hearing, Vernon residents are being asked to weigh in on the city’s plans to continue allowing the current shops until provincial rules for legal sales are in place.

READ MORE: Marijuana storefronts booming in Vernon, despite lack of licencing

Although the pot shop business model is still technically illegal in Canada, the stores are part of the everyday landscape in Vernon. The mayor said there are a dozen operating in Vernon at last count.

Vernon is moving forward with a bylaw Mayor Akbal Mund said will continue the status quo and allow the existing shops to keep operating while blocking new ones.

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Mund said the city has heard from people opposed to having any dispensaries in Vernon and those who believe the drug provides medical benefits.

“We just want to make sure we are looking after the interests of both sides,” the mayor said.

The city plans to issue the existing pot shops temporary-use permits to carry them over until provincial rules for legal marijuana sales are in place.

“I think it is a smart choice. I think more municipalities should follow Vernon’s footsteps in offering these temporary operating licences so that we can have a safe, responsible structure,” said Kyle St. Hilaire, a supervisor at a Vernon dispensary called Eden.

The relatively light-handed approach comes as other Okanagan cities crack down on dispensaries. West Kelowna has issued steep daily fines and Kelowna took businesses to court.

READ MORE: West Kelowna dispensaries absorbing $1,000 daily fines

Vernon’s mayor is trying to strike a balance.

“This is something that is going to become legal,” said Mund.

“We are not going to be the community that says we are going to cut you off because that is what everyone else is doing.”

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