British Columbia

Vancouver pot shop regulations under fire in letter from minister Rona Ambrose

The City of Vancouver's plan to regulate retail marijuana stores has raised the ire of Ottawa, with the federal health minister writing to the mayor.

Dispensaries are not a 'grey zone', letter states, 'they are illegal'

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

The City of Vancouver's plan to regulate retail marijuana stores has raised the ire of Ottawa.

In a letter to Mayor Gregor Robertson, federal health minister, Rona Ambrose, says she is "deeply concerned" at the city's plan to discuss a proposal to regulate the growing crop of pot shops.

The letter, sent Thursday, says that "legitimizing and normalizing the use and sale of marijuana can have only one effect: increasing marijuana use and addiction."

The federal regulations surrounding access to medical marijuana when prescribed by a physician are clear, the letter states, "and do not provide municipalities with the authority to legitimize the commercial sale of marijuana, which remains an illegal substance."

"Storefronts and dispensaries do not operate within a 'grey zone', and the law is clear: they are illegal."

Vancouver councillor Kerry Jang says Ambrose is missing the point.

"You know she raises the issue about the impact of marijuana on youth, but that's exactly what the city bylaws are designed to prevent, he said."

"They're actually designed to keep marijuana dispensaries away from schools and community centres,and to keep them from clustering around." 

Note: CBC has pulled together a list of marijuana-related businesses from various sources, including Leafly and the businesses' own websites. The City of Vancouver declined to provide CBC with the full list. 

Public concern

On Wednesday, the city announced it was taking the decision to look at regulating the industry in the face of a "lack of a clear and transparent regulatory framework from the federal government."

"While the city has no jurisdiction to regulate the sale of marijuana, it does have clear jurisdiction to regulate how and where businesses operate in our city," a statement from City Hall said.

Vancouver Coun. Kerry Jang said the city is acting on concerns raised by the public.

"We've heard loud and clear from the general public there is a lot of pot shops, and most of them are very close to schools, so this is part of the reason," he told CBC News Wednesday. 

"We want to make sure young people are protected. We want to keep them [marijuana shops] away from schools, community centres, and each other."