Licence appeals begin for Vancouver marijuana dispensaries

62 marijuana shop owners who were denied licences by the City of Vancouver will be appealing those decisions before the city's board of variance beginning Feb. 17. One shop owner is confident he will be allowed to stay put.

Board of variance expected to hear from 62 shop owners who were denied licences

Marijuana is weighed at The Dispensary in Vancouver. 62 dispensaries are appealing to the city's board of variance after they were not given licences to sell marijuana at storefronts in the city. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Vancouver marijuana shops not offered business licences will appeal the city's decision in front of the board of variance beginning Wednesday.

In June 2015 Vancouver city council voted to regulate and license medical marijuana retailers, making it the first city in Canada to do so. But by late October, only six per cent of those who applied were successful. 

Chuck Varabioff is the owner of the B.C. Pain Society on Commercial Drive, which had its licence application denied last year.

He says he's appealing because his society has many members, is close to SkyTrain, and has low prices.

"Our customers are extremely dependent on our location, and also, we have 1,800 square feet of parking in the back parking lot," he told On The Coast guest host Michelle Eliot.

"We have HandyDart bringing handicapped people in there, we have full handicapped access, and we're doing a number of things to help improve the neighbourhood."  

The board is expected to hear from 62 dispensary owners by November. Until their appeals are exhausted, the shops are allowed to continue to operate.

If their final appeals are denied, the dispensaries will have to close down shortly thereafter.

Too close to schools

Chuck Varabioff is the owner of the B.C. Pain Society on Commercial Drive which had its business licence denied last year. (CBC)
Most of the shops had their licences denied because they were too close to schools or other marijuana dispensaries.

But Varabioff asks, with businesses like pubs and other potentially contentious issues close to schools as well, why should his shop be singled out?

"There's a guy panhandling, there's cigarette butts littering the sidewalks, garbage everywhere, also within 300 metres of a school. How do you explain that to your kids?" he said.

Varabioff says he has considered moving the shop somewhere else, but he can't find any rental space that meets the city's guidelines.

He says he's confident his appeal will be successful, but if it's denied, he will comply and look for other options.

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Pot shop owners denied licenses begin appeals process


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