British Columbia

Medical marijuana dispensaries not welcome in Richmond, says mayor

Just months before the federal government is poised to enact legislation to legalize marijuana, the city of Richmond is considering a bylaw that will prevent pot dispensaries from operating in the city.

The City of Richmond is looking to ban storefront sales of marijuana in every zone of the city

The random selection process to award development permits encourages diverse applications, the city argues. (Associated Press)

Just months before the federal government is poised to enact legislation to legalize marijuana, the City of Richmond is considering a bylaw that will prevent pot dispensaries from operating in the city.

City council was presented with a recommendation from committee earlier this week that proposed to amend a zoning bylaw that would effectively ban all storefront operations selling marijuana.

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said the city wants to send a clear message: that marijuana is still illegal and with that, so are dispensaries.

"If you're conducting an illegal activity in the City of Richmond, you won't get a business license and we don't want you operating," said Brodie.

Brodie said there is currently one dispensary operating in the city.

"They're distributing so-called medical marijuana in a way that's not allowed by law. It doesn't matter whether we're talking about medical marijuana or any activity that's prohibited by law. you won't get a business license in Richmond to operate," said Brodie.

"We will take any steps necessary under the circumstances."

A tale of two cities

Richmond's move is in stark contrast to the City of Vancouver's approach to dealing with medical marijuana dispensaries.

In 2015, the City of Vancouver voted to regulate and license dispensaries, provided they meet a number of conditions.

Brodie said he doesn't support that move, adding that a city can't pick and choose which laws it supports.

"I don't understand the approach of Vancouver to say we don't agree with this law, so therefore we are going to not only turn a blind eye to it but we are going to give out business licenses for it," said Brodie.

As of December 2016, eight shops had been given business licenses in Vancouver and 11 more are under final processing.

The City of Victoria followed the lead of Vancouver in September 2016, introducing its own scheme to regulate dispensaries.

The Richmond mayor said city staff are aware federal laws are expected to be enacted in the spring, however, the city bylaw could be amended depending on what the legislation looks like.

"We can adjust accordingly. We have to see what's allowed, what's prohibited and what are the approaches that are being taken," said Brodie.

The bylaw amendment is expected to go before Richmond City Council next week.

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