British Columbia

Vancouver marijuana dispensaries: Only 11 of 176 approved by city

Most of Vancouver's medical marijuana dispensaries are in contravention of a new rule that prevents them from operating within 300 meters of a school, community centre or other dispensary.

First stage licence granted to just 6 per cent of pot shop applicants under new rules

Don Briere, owner of 9 Weeds Glass & Gifts medical marijuana dispensaries in Vancouver, has received first-stage licensing approval for just one of his stores. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Only 11 marijuana dispensaries out of the 176 that applied for business licenses under new regulations set out by the city of Vancouver have received the go ahead.

Don Briere, owner of nine Weeds Glass & Gifts medical marijuana dispensaries in the city of Vancouver told CBC only one of his stores, located on Victoria Drive, has been approved. All others were denied based on the new regulation that stores be located at least 300 meters from schools, recreation centres or other dispensaries.

"As an example, the one at Richards and Helmcken, it's 127 meters from [The Gathering Place] Community Centre and 220 meters from the Roundhouse Community Centre," said Briere.

The B.C. Compassion Club Society, Vancouver's oldest marijuana dispensary, also had its application denied. The Compassion Club is located across the street from Stratford Hall Private School on Commercial Drive.

Jamie Shaw, president of the B.C. Compassion Club Society, says her organization intends to appeal to the city board of variance and hopes to be granted an exception.

"We've been in operation for 18 years and in the same location for almost all of that time," said Shaw. "We looked at trying to move our location ... but rents were significantly higher. 

"For us as a non-profit that runs close to the bone, that literally would have resulted in cuts to health care services that we provide to our members," she said.

Briere said he hopes the Canadian Cannabis Coalition will appeal and secure injunctions for the stores that have had their applications denied, allowing them to remain open. He's also hoping incoming prime minister Justin Trudeau will make good on his campaign promise to legalize marijuana. 

"I think that a lot of people are wanting to let the federal government to regulate this now that the Liberals have come in," he said.

30 of the 176 stores that did not receive first application approval will now move to a secondary, competitive licensing stage because their only issue is being too close to another dispensary. Each of those stores will be asked to make a case for itself based on a number of criteria, including previous police contact and community complaints.

Stores that have been denied licenses have until April 2, 2016 to either close down or move, according to the notices sent out by city hall.

Two stores that did not apply for a licence have been asked to close down immediately or risk facing fines or legal action. 

With files from Farrah Merali


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