9 unauthorized Vancouver pot shops lose appeal, ordered to shut down

The City of Vancouver has won a court battle against nine unauthorized dispensaries, forcing the businesses to shut down. Pixabay

British Columbia’s top court has rejected a bid to stay open from nine pot dispensaries allegedly flouting the City of Vancouver’s cannabis bylaws.

The city won an injunction at the B.C. Supreme Court in December requiring four Weeds Glass and Gifts locations and five other dispensaries to shut their doors, but the dispensaries sought to have it stayed in the B.C. Court of Appeal.

Canna Clinic on East Hastings, green Cross Society of B.C. on Kingsway, Karuna Health Foundation on West 4th Avenue, Lotusland Cannabis Club on West Broadway and the Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary on East Hastings are the other dispensaries named in the appeal.

In his ruling Friday, Justice John Hunter gave no weight to the dispensaries’ argument that the injunction would force them to close their businesses, noting that they had neither provincial nor municipal licences.

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He further rejected their argument that closing down would impact medical cannabis users’ constitutional rights to access product, noting that there are multiple legal dispensaries in the city, along with dozens more that comply with the city’s bylaw and are seeking legal authorization to stay open.

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In a statement, the City of Vancouver said it was “pleased” with the outcome.

The decision comes after Vancouver filed 53 injunctions against unauthorized dispensaries in 2016. A number of the outlets have since closed down, some of them prior to the December Supreme Court decisions.

The city says there are 11 additional dispensaries operating in Vancouver without a valid licence, and it is now preparing to take legal action against those businesses.

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“The city expects that the nine stores that participated in the test case and remain open will obey the court’s order and close immediately. If they do not comply with the order, the city will seek to have them found in contempt of court,” the city said.

“The province’s community safety unit, which is responsible for compliance and enforcement of the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act, is now active in Vancouver.”

Paul Hunt, founder of the Green Cross Society — another dispensary named in the injunction — said he plans to fight the decision.

“It’s quite incredible what we’ve seen, people with addiction problems, we get people off hard drugs, heroin, cocaine, just by using cannabis,” he said.

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The Community Safety Unit has not been visibly active in B.C. to this point, but Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said it was now up and running.

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They have similar powers, for example, [to] liquor inspectors [who] have the power to enter and seize illegal alcohol,” he said.

“The Community Safety Unit has the same powers through legislation through legislation to be able to seize illegal product and significant administrative penalties can be levied so that these places are in fact shut down.”

The City of Vancouver says that it has issued six cannabis retail licences to recreational pot dispensaries.

-With files from Robyn Crawford

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