Victoria, BC Mayor says no plans to ‘scrap’ dispensary bylaws

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Courtesy of Lift Magazine

Victoria dispensariesFVictoria Mayor Lisa Helps is saying the city has no plans to ‘scrap’ their dispensary bylaws in response to a recent Facebook post from cannabis activist Dana Larsen saying the city intends to do so.

Larsen, who is seeking to generate attention for his own Sensible BC Candidate in the Vancouver City Council by-election this week, posted on his own Facebook page over the weekend that the Victoria Mayor has said she plans to ‘scrap’ the city’s dispensary bylaws, making way for ‘corporate cannabis.’ The Vancouver by-election takes place Oct 14, with early voting Oct 4 and 10.

Larsen’s Facebook post references an article from December 2016 that says the mayor intends to get rid of the regulations once the province takes over with their own regulations.

“Mayor of Victoria announces they will scrap dispensary bylaws next year and let big companies take over! Having a city business license won’t protect you if they scrap their bylaws and take the license away” reads the post.

“This is a lie and taking my words out of context. I did not say that we would let big companies take over. I said that when the Provincial and Federal government rules come into effect we will adjust our bylaws accordingly.”-Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps

However, in a request for comment today, the Victoria Mayor says the city has no intention of getting rid of their regulations.

“We will not ‘scrap our bylaws,’ we will ensure that our bylaws come in line with the federal and provincial rules,” the Mayor told Lift this morning after seeing the Facebook post.

“This is a lie and taking my words out of context,” the Mayor continued. “I did not say that we would let big companies take over. I said that when the Provincial and Federal government rules come into effect we will adjust our bylaws accordingly.”

Victoria began actively working on their own dispensary regulations in 2016 and began the process of issuing business licences in April of this year. In March of this year they announced they would begin to enforce those regulations.

Victoria councillor Marianne Alto, speaking as Acting Mayor at the recent annual meeting of BC Municipalities at the UBCM last month, said she thinks it’s very possible for the city’s licensed dispensaries to be transitioned to a legal market, but that there are still unknowns when it comes to the province.

“I think it’s entirely possible [to transition dispensaries] and the answer to that is going to rest with what the province and feds do. From the city’s perspective, those dispensaries that have gone through our process and succeeded are fine. They’ve met all of the regulations that we’ve constructed and they’ve met all of the terms and thresholds that we’ve set out, they’ve paid the right fees, they’ve done their rezoning application, they’ve done their commercial licensing. From our perspective, they’ve met our tests.”

“If it’s a dispensary that currently exists under the regulatory framework set up by a municipality, and that has met the threshold, I can’t see a reason why it can’t transition into a quote ‘legal’ entity, unless it fails a new test set out by the province or the federal government.”

“Now the question is going to be, are they compatible with and do they meet the test that the province and the federal government set, and I don’t know the answer to that question. What will they do?”

As for the province, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General of British Columbia Mike Farnworth, BC’s lead on the cannabis file, says they see the need for different models that work for different municipalities.

“We have not yet landed on any decisions around the retail model that will be in place, because I’ve made it clear, there’s different opinions in different parts of the province,” says Farnworth. “Vancouver has taken one approach, Victoria has taken another approach, but what works in Vancouver may not work in Port Coquitlam or may not work in Prince George or Campbell River or Fort Nelson or Cranbrook. We are open to putting in place a regime that works for the different parts of this province.”

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