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Kelowna council won't follow Vancouver's lead on medical marijuana dispensaries

Imre Kovacs is an owner of the Herbal Health Centre in Vernon, one of the Okanagan's last remaining marijuana dispensaries.
Image Credit: Charlotte Helston
June 29, 2015 - 9:00 PM

KELOWNA – More than 80 new medical marijuana dispensaries have opened in Vancouver in the last year, prompting city council there to consider implementing business regulations to keep them from getting out of control. But the mayor of the Interior's largest city says Kelowna council is not planning on revisiting the issue any time soon.

“At this point all we plan on doing is looking into it,” Mayor Colin Basran says. “There is no intention, at least right now, of implementing anything similar.”

According to a document on the Government of B.C. website, the proposed municipal regulations in Vancouver include a $30,000 annual licencing fee and a requirement to stay at least 300 metres away from schools, community centres and other dispensaries. These regulations are in direct contravention of federal law, says Health Minister Rona Ambrose.

“The federal government is opposed to this approach,” Ambrose says in the document. “Once you legalize something, you normalize it. When you normalize it, the message is that it’s safe and marijuana is not safe for young people.”

A grandmother from Summerland might take issue with a simple statement like that, saying cannabis oil, which has almost none of the psychoactive effects normal marijuana has, is the only thing that controls the seizures of her three-year-old granddaughter Kyla.

“We couldn’t even count the number of seizures before because they were one after the other,” she says. “Now some days she doesn’t have any.”

Kyla’s family were forced to buy the oil from grey market sources, which not only meant they were in violation of federal law but that they were getting an unpredictable, unregulated product.

“These are children we are administering medication to so they can’t tell us how they feel,” she says. “We can only observe what happens. We want to be able to get a really clean, good product legally.”

Marijuana continues to be regulated as a controlled substance under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA), which the RCMP has an obligation to investigate where grounds exist. There is no legal mechanism available in Canada today, which allows for a self-described "medical marijuana dispensary" or "compassion club" to function.

In January RCMP raided and shut down a marijuana dispensary in downtown Kelowna after receiving a number of unspecified complaints.

Const. Kris Clark said in a release that staff at the Kaya Clinic were present during the search but nobody was arrested. Police found a large quantity of marijuana products inside the store, including 12.5 pounds of dried marijuana, and derivative products such as oils, hash, capsules, creams, tinctures, balms, honey, candies, butters, teas and cookies.

"The RCMP supports efforts to ensure those permitted by law to have access to marijuana for medical purposes do have that access," Clark said. "The regulations do not provide blanket legality to produce, use, or traffic marijuana, and the RCMP will continue to enforce the laws of Canada with respect to marijuana."

Mayor Basran says while he personally supports the use of medical marijuana it is not council’s job to oversee its distribution.

“I think the federal government needs to figure out better ways of getting it into the hands of people who need it,” he says. “Kelowna is following what Vancouver is doing but has no plans to open up the conversation or do something similar.”

To contact the reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw at aproskiw@infonews.ca or call 250-718-0428. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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