PENTICTON - An appeal by the owner of the Rush In and Finish Cafeto maintain his business license has been turned down by Penticton city council.
Cafe owner Jukka Laurio went before Penticton City Council yesterday, July 19, to make his case to keep his business license after a recommendation from staff to suspend it because he was illegally selling marijuana at the premises.
Laurio’s opportunity to address council came about as part of the license revoking process initiated by city staff. Laurio admitted he was selling medical marijuana to “an immense number of clients” telling council his operation existed for “the greater good of Penticton."
Referring to his cafe as a compassion club, he said he maintained high standards in his operation requiring new customers to undergo consultation before being allowed to purchase products.
“We don’t talk about how high you’re going to get, it’s strictly medicinal,” Laurio said, adding he didn’t even consider selling to people under 25, because their only use of his products would be recreational.
Laurio urged council to take the initiative to regulate the business rather than shut him down, saying the legalization of the drug was inevitable.
“Why not put together some regulations and take control now?” he said.
In answer to council's questions about how he regulated his business, Laurio said he requires customers to provide some proof of a medical condition before selling them medical marijuana. He says his staff trained through "study and research” and admitted he had no qualifications with respect to diagnosing people.
Council expressed concerns around the legality of the operation within the present laws of the country and maintaining the integrity of the city’s business licensing bylaws.
“We’re all in a quandry about what to do,” Coun. Judy Sentes said while acknowledging a need for Laurio’s service.
Medical marijuana is more acceptable than public nudity, another federal law we were asked to regulate, Mayor Andrew Jakubeit noted.
Coun. Max Picton noted the need for the sale of medical marijuana, but wasn’t comfortable allowing Laurio’s business to proceed.
“I do not have the comfort level for this particular case at this particular time," Picton said.
“We’re here for safety, we need to have some regulation. This business license needs to be cancelled until we can look at what other communities are doing to come back with some parameters in the near future do these businesses can operate safely,” Coun. Helena Konanz said.
“The reality is he will do his business whether we cancel this or not,” Coun. Tarik Sayeed said, who argued the business should be allowed to continue.
Mayor Jakubeit said he supported delaying a decision for several weeks to allow city staff to come up with a solution, noting it was an issue in many communities.
Council decided to cancel Laurio’s business license by a vote of 5 to 2 with Mayor Jakubeit and Coun. Sayeed opposed.
In a second motion, council agreed to have staff come back to council within 60 days with possible regulatory measures.
Building and permitting Manager Ken Kunka said council’s decision provided some clarity to staff as the city examines the licenses of three other businesses in Penticton who have already received warnings for running similar operations.
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