“… Council has said no to ride-sharing services such as Uber, claiming that the Provincial government doesn’t have any regulations in place yet, but Council is willing to say yes to marijuana businesses even though the Federal government doesn’t have new regulations in place yet…”
– Melissa De Genova –
Vancouver, B.C., January 31, 2016: NPA City Councillor Melissa De Genova is calling for a moratorium on Medical Marijuana-Related Business Development Permit Applications until such time as the Government of Canada enacts legislation to legalize, regulate and restrict access to marijuana and implements a new regulatory framework and system for marijuana sales and distribution. A motion brought forward by De Genova is on the Vancouver City Council meeting agenda for this coming Tuesday, February 2, 2016.
De Genova says she fully supports the steps being taken by the federal government to legalize and regulate marijuana, a process that will bring clarity to the issue. She also fully understands the benefits medical marijuana brings to people suffering from a wide variety of conditions ranging from chronic pain to cancer. However, she says the City’s new by-law is inherently flawed, and the City’s current policy is backwards, which raises a number of concerns for her.
“Last year’s amendments to the Zoning By-law will force the closure of some well-regarded, long-standing, non-profit compassion clubs that don’t meet the requirements of the City’s new by-law,” says De Genova. “The City’s by-law also doesn’t allow for edible marijuana products to be sold, even though the Supreme Court ruled last year that medical marijuana patients have a right to access edibles.”
De Genova is also concerned about the potential legal and enforcement costs that taxpayers will have to shoulder when the City begins to enforce its new by-law at the end of April. She points out that the City received 176 applications for medical marijuana-related businesses following enactment of the new by-law and that only a small number of these applications have been allowed to move forward to the Development Permit stage.
“Applications from many of the 100 or so marijuana businesses operating before the by-law came into effect have been denied by the City and the operators have been told to close down. These operators could very well just ignore the by-law and try to stay open, which will be expensive for the City as staff will have to take enforcement actions, issue fines, and will probably have to engage in lengthy and expensive legal prosecutions to shut them down.”
De Genova stresses that the new federal government has made the legalization and regulation of marijuana a priority. She feels the City should therefore wait for the Federal process to unfold, and for the City to be an active participant in that process. She notes that when the City moved forward with its by-law to regulate marijuana dispensaries last year, there was a different federal government in place; one that had made it clear they were not prepared to legalize marijuana. She says the context is completely different now.
“I find it inconsistent and kind of hypocritical that Council has said no to ride-sharing services such as Uber, claiming that the Provincial government doesn’t have any regulations in place yet, but Council is willing to say yes to marijuana businesses even though the Federal government doesn’t have new regulations in place yet. Council didn’t say 14 Uber vehicles can operate in Vancouver until the Province decides what the rules are, so why are we allowing 14 marijuana businesses to open before we know what the Federal rules are going to be?”
The text of De Genova’s motion is appended at the end of this media release.
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MOTION – Moratorium on Medical Marijuana-Related Business Development Permit Applications
MOVER: Councillor De Genova
SECONDER: Councillor Ball
1. On June 24, 2015, Vancouver City Council approved amendments to the City’s Zoning and Development By-law pertaining to Retail Dealers – Medical Marijuana-Related Uses – with new rules to regulate and control medical marijuana retail businesses in the City of Vancouver;
2. The Government of Canada’s Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) currently prohibits possession, trafficking, import and export, and production of controlled substances, including marijuana, unless authorized by regulations;
3. The Government of Canada’s Marijuanafor Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) came into force in June 2013 to meet the requirement of the courts to provide Canadians who require marijuana for medical purposes with reasonable access to a legal source of dried marijuana;
4. Neither the Government of Canada’s Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) nor any other Health Canada regulations currently authorize licensed producers to provide marijuana for medical purposes through a storefront;
5. To operate a medical marijuana-related retail business or compassion club in the City of Vancouver, a development permit and business licence are required;
6. Under the City of Vancouver’s amended zoning By-law, the City of Vancouver has deemed 12 applications for medical marijuana-related businesses eligible to move forward with a development permit review, with an additional 30 (thirty) applications that meet zoning requirements (except for the minimum distancing from other medical marijuana-related retail use applicants), some of which could also soon proceed to the permits and licencing process phase;
7. In accordance with the City of Vancouver By-law, the majority of development permit applications for existing medical marijuana-related retail businesses have been refused due to the fact that they do not comply with the City’s Zoning and Development By-law requirements and the operators have been informed that they must close by the end of April 2016 or face enforcement actions by the City, ranging from ticketing to injunctions and prosecution;
8. On December 4, 2015, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, opened the First Session of the Forty-second Parliament of Canada and conveyed, in the Speech from the Throne, that the Government of Canada will introduce legislation to legalize, regulate and restrict access to marijuana;
9. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s November 2015 Mandate Letter to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, directs the Minister to work with the Ministers of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and Health to create a federal-provincial-territorial process that will lead to the legalization and regulation of marijuana;
10. The intent of the Government of Canada is to create a new regulatory framework that will remove marijuana consumption and incidental possession from the Criminal Code and create new, stronger laws to punish more severely those who provide marijuana to minors, those who operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana, and those who sell marijuana outside of the proposed new regulatory framework;
11. The intent of the Government of Canada is to create a federal/provincial/territorial task force to design a new system of strict marijuana sales and distribution, with appropriate federal and provincial excise taxes applied, and with input from experts in public health, substance abuse, and law enforcement;
12. In January 2016, it was announced that MP Bill Blair, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, will be the Government of Canada’s point person on the legalization and regulation of marijuana;
13. Neither the outcome of the Government on Canada’s upcoming process to legalize and regulate marijuana nor the form of any new regulatory framework are known at this time, and the eventual status, as well as the current legality, of storefront medical marijuana-related businesses remains unclear.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED
A. THAT Council direct staff to place an immediate moratorium on all Development Permit Reviews and processes for Medical Marijuana-Related Uses in the City of Vancouver, and that no business licences for said uses shall be issued, until such time as the Government of Canada enacts legislation to legalize, regulate and restrict access to marijuana and implements a new regulatory framework and system for marijuana sales and distribution, whether it be for medical marijuana or recreational marijuana.
B. THAT, in accordance with existing Canadian laws, Council direct staff to proceed with the enforcement of closure orders for all existing medical marijuana-related retail businesses in the City of Vancouver, including those in compliance with the City’s Zoning and Development By-law, with enforcement actions to begin no later than the end of April 2016.
C. THAT Council direct Mayor Robertson to write to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, requesting that the City of Vancouver be granted formal status in the federal-provincial-territorial process that will lead to the legalization and regulation of marijuana.
D. THAT Council direct staff to engage with staff in other B.C. municipalities where storefront medical marijuana dispensaries have attempted to set up shop, as well as with staff in jurisdictions such as the states of Colorado and Washington, to gain from their firsthand experience with marijuana related businesses and any pitfalls they have encountered.
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