April 27, 2016 - 1:00 PM
VANCOUVER - Dozens of medical marijuana businesses in Vancouver could face court action if they violate regulations by staying open without approval, the city's chief licence inspector says.
Andreea Toma said 140 pot shops were refused development permits last October because they didn't comply with rules such as being too close to schools.
Up to 100 of the businesses could still be operating when the six-month grace period ends Friday, she said.
Dispensaries that did not meet regulations were given time to find other sites that are a minimum of 300 metres from schools, community centres and each other.
Toma said inspectors will start issuing tickets on Saturday to businesses that continue to operate in unregulated locations and that haven't been granted a business licence.
Violators must pay $250 for every day they remain open and the city could also pursue court action, including a $10,000 fine or an injunction order to have stores closed down, she said.
"Residents have told us they're not concerned with having a medical marijuana business in their community. What they have a concern with is having a plethora of them," she said.
Chuck Varabioff, who owns B.C. Pain Society, said one of his two stores was denied a permit but the city refused to hear an appeal in February.
Varabioff said he will not close his store by Friday even though it is 93 metres from a school and does not meet the buffer zone requirement.
"I will have a stack of post-dated cheques lined up on my desk and when the city comes in I'll happily hand them 100 post-dated cheques."
The BC Compassion Club, which has operated in Vancouver for nearly 20 years, was granted permission last week to stay open despite the fact that it is closer to a school than Varabioff's business.
He said that unlike the compassion club, he wasn't given a chance to argue his reasoning and won't close shop until the city gives him a chance to argue his case.
Seven businesses have been issued development permits under the city's regulations and 13 applications are being reviewed.
Successful applicants will move on to the final approval stage to get a business licence, and the city said it's currently processing three such applications.
The cost of a business licence is $1,000 for compassion clubs, which are non-profit businesses, and $30,000 for medical marijuana stores.
Vancouver became the first city in Canada to adopt regulations for pot stores, saying such businesses grew by 100 per cent a year from mid-2013 to mid-2015.
Toma said the regulations came after four days of public hearings that included the chief medical health officer saying medical marijuana must be made available for those who need it.
The lack of direction from the former Conservative government forced Vancouver to take initiative, she said.
A year ago, former Conservative health minister Rona Ambrose told the City of Vancouver that it does not have the authority to legitimize pot with its proposal to regulate the "illegal" dispensaries.
Ambrose sent a letters to Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson saying she was "deeply concerned'' by the city's plans to consideration regulations and to Vancouver police saying officers must enforce the law.
Federal Liberal Health Minister Jane Philpott told delegates at the United Nations last week that her government will introduce legislation to legalize marijuana by spring of next year.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016