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Vancouver’s Cannabis Store Designation

Vancouver city council has created the “Cannabis Store” designation by amending a zoning and development bylaw, to accommodate Bill C-45 coming into effect on October 17.

It will replace the “Medicinal Marijuana Related Use” (MMRU) that has so far been used, so that licensed retailers can sell legal recreational cannabis under city regulations.

Kaye Krishna, who is the general manager of development, buildings and licensing, says, “We essentially took the existing land use definitions and rules that we had in place for an MMRU and we basically opened that up to all cannabis.”

Little Change in Status Quo

In the near future, the requirements for operating a retail cannabis store will be similar to existing medicinal marijuana stores, which includes maintaining a distance of at least 300m from community centres, schools and other retailers, and being restricted to commercial zones.

Recreational cannabis retailers will also need to ensure three pieces of approval are in place for full compliance.

Recreational cannabis retailers will also need to ensure three pieces of approval are in place for full compliance: municipal land use approval, a provincial operator business licence, and a municipal business licence.

The city says that 46 locations have received approval to operate, but only 19 have complied with business licensing requirements in full.

Krishna sent out a warning to illegal operators, saying. “The city has continued to issue tickets regularly, weekly, to the illegal operators and we file injunctions against them as well, when we find out about them.”

She disclosed that $1,000 fines are issued every week, and while some operators are complying, others do not obey the distancing regulations.

300m Rule Enforced

Director of the Vancouver Dispensary Society, Dana Larsen, criticized the 300m rule, calling it “absurd”. He added, “Now we’ve got legal cannabis coming and they haven’t amended the bylaws at all, which means we’re only going to have room for about 20 locations in the whole city to sell.”

However, the city said that the ruling would allow up to 60 legal recreational cannabis shops, but Larsen thinks this will only become a reality if they are optimally spread. “They’re not making any changes to the system that they put in place two years ago, and the system… is clearly not working by any measure.”

The 300m rule has also been called an “elimination strategy” by Robert Laurie, a lawyer who is representing more than a dozen dispensaries in a BC Supreme Court battle set to take place this fall. To date, the city has handed down 53 injunctions against shops. Laurie says, “Ultimately, we want to see cannabis treated on a parity, not more restrictively, with alcohol and other harmful substances.”