British Columbia

Green thumbs-up for Victoria's pot dispensary rules

A Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries director says new rules for medical marijuana storefronts are close to what operators asked for.

Rules say no minors, no advertising, 200-metre buffer from schools and other shops

About 40 cannabis dispensaries are estimated to be operating in Victoria as new rules come into effect. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

The City of Victoria has joined Vancouver in an unfamiliar role: regulating marijuana storefronts.

The Storefront Cannabis Retailer Rezoning Policy received final approval from City Council Thursday night.

As of Sept. 23, all pot dispensaries in the capital city must obtain a $5,000 business license and pass a complex rezoning process, at a cost of $7,500, in order to operate legally.

'It's mostly what dispensaries have asked for'

Dieter MacPherson, a board member for the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries, said the new rules appear fair so far.

"Absolutely, compared to Vancouver," MacPherson told On the Island host Gregor Craigie. "By and large it's mostly what dispensaries have asked for, " 

The new rules include shorter hours, no on-site consumption, age restrictions and a ban on advertising. Dispensaries also must be at least 200 metres from schools. 

The most contentious requirement is a 200-metre buffer between each marijuana dispensary. Many of the approximately 40 marijuana storefronts currently operating within city limits are closer than that.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and council approved dispensary regulations Thursday night. (Facebook)

If more than one dispensary meets the zoning requirements within a 200-metre area, the first through the rezoning process is likely to succeed, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said. "It is a matter of which dispensary owner is organized and through the door most quickly."

As the new regulations come into effect, MacPherson said dispensary operators want clear interpretations of the new guidelines.

"Things like storing valuables in a safe at night," MacPherson said. "What's the definition of a safe? Dispensaries sell edible products that are quite high volume and they have to be refrigerated."

"So do you have to put the refrigerator in the safe or do you have to make the fridge into a safe?" he asked.

Nonetheless, MacPherson is optimistic about the new policy.

"In Vancouver there have been quite a few court challenges against the City and there's also injunctions from the City against those who haven't come into compliance," he said.

"We're hoping to avoid that in Victoria; it's been a very integrative process, holistic. Everybody's been involved."

With files from On the Island.

To listen to the interview with Dieter MacPherson on CBC Radio's On the Island, click: New Victoria marijuana shop rules fair, cannabis advocate says

To listen to the interview with Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps on CBC Radio's On the Island, click: Victoria mayor expects buffer zones to reduce marijuana dispensary numbers