British Columbia

Pot shop owner says he will sell marijuana without prescriptions

Vancouver dispensaries owned by the pot activist will not require customers have a medical marijuana prescription to make a purchase.

Dana Larsen's marijuana dispensaries remain unlicensed by city

Director of the Vancouver Dispensary Society Dana Larsen says with legalization on the way, he plans to sell marijuana to anyone, with or without a medical prescription (OverGrow Canada)

Dana Larsen says his two dispensaries will sell marijuana to anyone, even if they don't have a medical prescription.

The well-known marijuana campaigner, and director of the Vancouver Dispensary Society, says with legalization on the way, it's time to move forward.

"I think it's the right time," said Larsen. "I see us selling medical marijuana as a non-prescription drug, similar to aspirin and things like that."

The two locations of The Medical Cannabis Dispensary, one located at East Hastings Street and another on Thurlow Street near Davie Street, will be checking the identity of every customer and not selling to minors.

City crackdown

The federal government has announced it will introduce legislation for legalization next spring.

But that hasn't stopped the City of Vancouver from attempting its own measures to control pot shops.

While it doesn't have the power to control the actual sales of marijuana, which falls under federal jurisdiction, it does have the ability to grant or deny a business licence.

In order to be eligible, the city created a set of regulations for marijuana-related businesses. So far, only two businesses have received a licence.

After months of contention between the city and approximately 140 unlicensed dispensaries, dozens of fines have been issued

Neither of Larsen's two locations has obtained a licence.

The city says the Thurlow Street location was refused a license because it is not the required distance away from a school — 300 metres. The city has estimated the shop to be only 250 metres away.

The East Hastings Street location was refused because the city says it is not a permitted zone. That location is being ticketed on an ongoing basis and the city is threatening to seek a court-ordered closure.

"We do consider past business practice when issuing a license and will revoke business licenses should the business not follow regulations," said a city spokesperson by email. 

Police priorities

The Vancouver Police Department said marijuana remains illegal, but enforcement is a low priority for them.

"The law has not changed. The sale of marijuana from a store remains illegal, regardless of a doctor's note," said VPD Const. Brian Montague in an email.

"While marijuana remains a low priority over fentanyl, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, that does not mean they can't become a priority if public safety becomes a concern."

Larsen says he doesn't plan to give in.

"I think legalization should not mean raids and shutdowns. It should mean an acceptance of what's already happening."

With files from Stephanie Mercier