Medical marijuana dispensary upsets Vancouver condo neighbours

The plan to open a new medical marijuana dispensary at a downtown Vancouver condo complex has riled up some residents at 1675 Hornby Street

Dispensary opening today, residents concerned about property values tanking, smell

Maxine Clough has started a petition to stop a medical marijuana store from opening at 1675 Hornby St. (CBC)

The plan to open a new medical marijuana dispensary Friday at a downtown Vancouver condo complex has riled up some residents of 1675 Hornby Street. 

Maxine Clough, one of the residents at the condo near Hornby St. and Beach Ave., said that while she and her neighbours have no problem with medical marijuana, their building is simply the wrong location. She has started a petition to stop the store from opening and has collected roughly 140 signatures so far.

"We have the Montessori school just down the bike path. We have another pre-school on Burrard Street, where the children go by here all the time," she says. "We just don't think this is the right atmosphere [for a medical marijuana store]."

She says residents are also concerned their building insurance will be cancelled, property values will take a hit, and the smell from the store will be overwhelming.

The small store is scheduled to open today without a business license. Once it opens, it will be one of 81 medical marijuana stores operating in the city, but Vancouver city councilor Kerry Jang says there is little the city can do. 

The dispute highlights the murky legal ground on which medical marijuana dispensaries in Vancouver do business.

No permit needed

"You don't even need a permit because no permit presently exists for marijuana dispensaries," he said. "And this is because we cannot create a permit for something that's technically illegal. Currently the city has no rules around it because there are no federal laws that we can actually write bylaws to meet."

There are currently 80 medical marijuana stores operating in the City of Vancouver. (CBC)

But Jang says city staff are working to create some rules for medical pot stores.

The operator of Canada Bliss Herbal Society, the group behind the medical marijuana store, says he has the right insurance to open the medical marijuana store and he's filling a demand in the neighbourhood.

"There's a bit of a need for it in the area," says Ryan Williams.

"It's a bit difficult finding places that will rent to you. We had a landlord there that was cooperative with us, that agrees with our purpose."

Williams says he's surprised at the resistance from the neighbours given there are many more dispensaries in the neighbourhood. 

"I'd say about seven of them that are within about ten minutes walking distance of where we located," he says, "so it's a bit of shock to me that there is any pushback, being that there are so many right in that neighbourhood."

With files from Tamara Baluja

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