British Columbia

Vancouver pot shops should be shut down, says Rona Ambrose

Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose is calling on Vancouver's mayor to close down the city's retail marijuana stores.

Health minister appeals to council to vote down resolution to regulate 'illegal storefronts'

Health Minister Rona Ambrose says research into the effects of marijuana on developing brains has shown an 'irrefutable' link between usage in young people and psychosis and schizophrenia. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Mayor Gregor Robertson says Vancouver's proposed regulations for retail marijuana stores are "common sense" and are designed to protect children.

Robertson was responding to comments made earlier Friday by Health Minister Rona Ambrose, who called on the mayor to reject regulation and instead close down more than 80 street stores.

"The federal laws and courts have ruled on this," Robertson said. "They exist because they are allowed to exist. We can't let them operate in a vacuum."

Speaking earlier Friday, Ambrose had reiterated her position that regulation of the businesses would legitimize them.

"Storefront dispensaries are not part of the Health Canada regime in any way," she said. "What they are is commercial entities selling pot on street corners.

"My appeal to the mayor is to think twice about this, and to vote against his proposal on Tuesday, and instead to close down these dispensaries."

Ambrose said her concern was based on research into the effects of marijuana on developing brains, which she said made an "irrefutable" link between usage in young people and serious effects such as psychosis and schizophrenia.

"Don't do it. Don't pass the resolution," she urged council.

'Missing the point'

In a letter to Robertson Thursday, Ambrose wrote that "legitimizing and normalizing the use and sale of marijuana can have only one effect: increasing marijuana use and addiction."

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

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."

Ambrose is missing the point, Vancouver Coun. Kerry Jang said Thursday.

"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."

Map of Vancouver's pot shops

Note: CBC created this map after pulling 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. 


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