Abbotsford can fine medical pot dispensaries, court rules

Supreme Court justice says Abbotsford's bylaws forbidding medical marijuana dispensaries are constitutional

In July

The City of Abbotsford can continue to fine marijuana dispensaries, the province’s Supreme Court ruled this week.

Justice Miriam Gropper ruled that Abbotsford’s bylaws that don’t allow dispensaries to obtain a business licence are constitutional, and that the operator of a now-closed dispensary was in breach of city rules.

Read the full ruling here.

The city had maintained that because dispensaries are illegal under federal law, they could not issue a business licence to such operations. That meant that any dispensaries operating in the city are in breach of the city’s business licence and zoning bylaw and hence subject to fines.

In July, the operator of Mary Jane’s Glass & Gifts, Don Briere, sued the city, alleging its bylaws were unconstitutional.

But at the commencement of a November hearing in the suit, Briere notified the court that Mary Jane’s had closed and that he had agreed to not operate another dispensary in Abbotsford. Nevertheless, Gropper decided the case should proceed.

Having already closed his store, Briere made no submissions at the hearing, and Grimmal ruled that “there being no argument to the contrary,” he had breached the city’s bylaw.

She also ruled on the constitutionality of the bylaws.

Briere had originally claimed that dispensaries would soon be legal given promised changes to marijuana laws, and that disabilities or a lack of money left many of his clients unable to obtain medical pot elsewhere.

But the Justice agreed that local concerns about land use, rather than criminal matters, was the focus of the bylaw. The city, then, was within its rights to regulate such operations.

“In respect of the operators’ allegations of Charter breaches, the Attorney General argues and I agree that whether the ACMPR impairs access to medical marihuana is irrelevant in these proceedings,” Gropper ruled, referring to federal rules governing medial marijuana. “As noted, the existing federal law does not authorize access to medical marijuana by marijuana dispensaries. The operators’ position speculates about a future challenge to federal regulations, a matter that is not before me in this petition.”

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