How are dispensaries treated differently across Canada?

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Courtesy of Lift Magazine

A breakdown of recent municipal activity around dispensaries across Canada. While Vancouver and Victoria are the most well-known for their pro-active cannabis policy as it relates to retail stores and licensing, many other cities across Canada continue to wrangle with the questions of how to manage dispensaries currently and how to manage retail cannabis sales once the Cannabis Act is passed.

Victoria, BC

Council recently passed a motion to increase the distance required between dispensaries from 200m to 400m, but left in the exemption possible in more developed areas on a case-by-case basis.

4 dispensaries have received zoning approval, 6 more will go to public hearing, and another 23 are still working their way through the process.

8 tickets have been issued for allowing consumption on-site, but this is also something Council left open for possible exemption. 15-24 fines have been levied for operating without a license.

Vancouver, BC

As of time of writing, Vancouver has 27 dispensaries with a development permit, and another 10 that have received a license. An unknown number are still working through the process, along with some who are scheduled to appear before the Board of Variance for a second time.

Penticton, BC

City council had voted last year to allow cannabis dispensaries operating in the city to apply for 6-month temporary use permits. Two of the city’s three dispensaries received these permits, and the third (an establishment with a long-time history of problems before it became a dispensary) was denied. On Tuesday of this week, council cited costs related to an injunction filed against this third establishment, and costs related to that party’s counter-suit as reasons for not renewing the permits. Two councillors went on record as opposed.

Nelson, BC

Earlier this year, Nelson passed dispensary regulation by-laws limiting the number of licenses available to six, five of which were issued shortly after. The two remaining applicants had been denied at that time, but on July 6, it approved both of the remaining licenses. It is unclear how the bylaw statute limiting licenses to six will be addressed.

Edmonton, AB

While there is nothing on the horizon yet regarding retail regulations, the city has been proactive in amending definitions and uses ahead of regulation. Creating the uses of ‘cannabis retail’ and ‘cannabis lounge’ by definition only has allowed them to specifically exclude places where the city does not want cannabis to be sold (eg: bars, general stores, etc.) The amendments are not numerous, they do not lay out a framework, but they are thorough (for example, a ‘bed-and-breakfast’ use cannot be mixed with ‘cannabis retail’ use, but could possibly be mixed with ‘cannabis lounge’ use).

Calgary, AB

A recent article in the Globe and Mail claimed the city was looking at a private retail model similar to alcohol, however, a quick read of the material provided by the city showed the model they are looking at it is similar to the retail license under Vancouver’s MMRU.

Toronto, ON

In May, 2016, Toronto Police raided 43 dispensaries and laid 90 charges. As of July 6, 2017, only 23 of those charges still stood, and there have been approximately another 150 raids, which continue. The number of dispensaries in Toronto still hovers around 50.

Tyendinaga, ON

This Township of just over 4000 people lies between Belleville and Napanee, and encompasses the communities of Albert, Blessington, Chisholm’s Mills, Ebenezer, Halston, Kingsford, Lonsdale, Lonsdale Station, Melrose, Marysville, Milltown, Myrehall, Naphan, Read and Shannonville. It covers 300k sq km, with over 73k sq km of that belonging to the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte (Kenhteke). The OPP have made statements about proactive enforcement, and the locally elected Band Council seem to be in support of this. In response, the Kenhteke Cannabis Association, endorsed by ten cannabis businesses in the township, issued a statement claiming the right to provide cannabis for their people, and that enforcement ‘would not be tolerated.’

Waterloo, ON

The Waterloo Dispensary was the first one to be raided in the city, in August of last year. The Crown was originally seeking jail time, but later lowered the request to $10,000. Last week, the owners received a complete discharge, with the judge saying ‘the only crime committed was an ‘offence of compassion’.

Winnipeg, Manitoba

The city itself has made no move to regulate dispensaries, but the Provincial government this week released an Expression of Interest calling for submissions and advice from the private sector

Featured image from David Brown

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