• Ted Ohashi

Marijuana dispensaries operating illegally in Vancouver ordered to shut down

The British Columbia Supreme Court has ordered marijuana dispensaries operating illegally in Vancouver to shut down. Of course what is odd is that under the law all dispensaries operating in Vancouver are illegal. What the ruling means is that Vancouver has the right to establish licensing and zoning bylaws and the Supreme Court affirmed the City’s right to do so.

On April 24, 2015, we reported here that the Municipality of Vancouver was planning to regulate the sale of cannabis within the city limits. We pointed out that although Vancouver could not regulate the sale of marijuana, it has jurisdiction over how and where businesses operate. The new rules required pot shops to get development permits and business licences, and set rules about how far they stores had to be from schools and from each other.

When shops refused to comply with the new regulations, Vancouver began enforcement in April 2016 and subsequently issued 3,713 bylaw tickets carrying a total of $3 million in fines. By 2018 there were still 53 shops still operating illegally and the city sought court injunctions to shut them down. Twenty-five shops closed before the case reached court leaving 28 covered by the ruling that have now been ordered to close. The judge also ruled the fines will not be declared void.

The dispensary owners still have a few options. They can appeal the decision or accept the decision and close. They can apply for Vancouver licensing or they can do what has created this problem in the first place – ignore the law.

The Vancouver police department has said in the past as reported here that they don’t have the resources to enforce the bylaws. The Vancouver Police Department has stated they practice “priority-based policing” and policing dispensaries is not an effective use of their limited resources.

This activity is a huge waste of time and money on the part of the municipality. Cannabis is now legal and the province and municipalities are working through the issue of dispensaries. There are already two dispensaries approved under the new laws but neither is in Vancouver. At this point, if they simply wait for a few months the issue will begin to resolve itself. Municipal authorities have already confirmed they do not have a plan of enforcement.

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