Vancouver issues fines to pot shops defiant of city rules

City of Vancouver bylaw officers have not wasted any time visiting marijuana shops in the city that continue to operate despite not meeting new licensing criteria, issuing $250 tickets along the way.

Stores had until April 29, 2016 to meet city-imposed criteria, such as distance to schools

This City of Vancouver violation ticket for $250 was issued to Don Briere at one of his marijuana shops at 1108 Richards St. in Vancouver on April, 30, 2016. (Megan Batchelor/CBC)

City of Vancouver bylaw officers have not wasted any time visiting marijuana shops in the city that continue to operate despite not meeting new licensing criteria.

Several were visited on Saturday and issued $250 fines for operating in a non-compliant location and without a business licence.

Don Briere, who owns nine Weeds Glass & Gifts medical marijuana dispensaries in Vancouver, said six of his shops were issued fines on Saturday. But he says he plans on fighting every one of them.

"We're paying lots of taxes," he said of shops like his. "We're employing people. If they close these shops down, it will go to the street-corner gangs who don't pay taxes. They trade it for guns or heroin."

The city would not say Saturday how many shops had been fined, but said it will provide an update on Monday.

Vancouver became the first city in Canada to decide to regulate and license medical marijuana retailers in June 2015.

In October 2015, the city refused 140 preliminary development permit applications for marijuana-related businesses because they were either too close to schools, community centres or other marijuana shops. One of the new rules states dispensaries must be at least 300 metres away from these facilities.

They were given six months to move and now those who stayed put are being targeted by bylaw officers who can fine them $250 every day they continue to operate illegally.

"These regulations are fine if they're fair and just, but that's the problem," said Cannabis Culture magazine owner Jodie Emery. The pot activist actually took over the ownership of a pot shop on Beatty Street on Friday, the day enforcement began.

"The 300-metre limit is not fair when liquor stores are close to schools and when children buy candy at corner stores where cigarettes are sold. So these rules are not really justifiable. It's simply an anti-marijuana bias."

The city says there are currently seven medical marijuana-related use, or MMRUs, that have been issued development permits under the new regulations adopted in June 2015. Another 13 applications are under review.

Once a development permit is approved, operators must then obtain a business licence.

"We are currently processing three business licence applications and expect to issue the first licence soon," said the city on its website.

With files from Megan Batchelor

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