Dispensary cautions raised at Langley Township council

The Township “hasn’t had any experience” of rapid growth in either marijuana or methadone dispensaries, says planning GM Ramin Seifi.

As far as anyone can tell, Langley Township hasn’t experienced a sudden growth in businesses dispensing medicinal marijuana and methadone.

Councillor Charlie Fox would like to keep it that way.

Fox raised the issue at the Monday afternoon meeting of Township council, referring to the “sudden surge” of marijuana dispensaries in Vancouver and an increase in the number of pharmacies dispensing methadone “next door,” an apparent reference to Langley City.

Ten of the 12 pharmacies in the City currently dispense methadone, more than triple the number a year ago.

The City recently learned that its bylaw banning methadone dispensation without supervision by the Fraser Health Authority violates Canada’s Charter of Rights, and is not enforceable.

Langley City began on Monday to take steps to rectify the issue, giving first and second reading to a bylaw amending its zoning regulations.

Heroin addicts who replace the drug with liquid methadone usually take it daily, a $20 profit for the pharmacy each time because it can charge a dispensing fee plus a fee for watching the person take their dose.

A 2011-12 report from the Provincial Health Officer shows the number of pharmacies dispensing methadone has more than doubled in B.C. since 2001-02 when the government made changes to PharmaCare coverage of methadone.

The Downtown Langley Business Association has expressed fears the city will become a hub for methadone dispensing in the Lower Mainland.

Vancouver is struggling with an increase in unlicensed marijuana dispensaries over the last three years, from 20 to 94.

The city is looking at new regulations that would include a $30,000 annual fee, and a requirement that stores must be 300 metres away from schools and community centres.

Fox said the Township should find out what measures other communities are taking to deal with methadone and marijuana dispensaries before it becomes a problem locally.

Staff will investigate and report back to council, but it doesn’t appear there is a serious problem. Ramin Seifi, the municipal general manager of Engineering and Community Development, told council the Township “hasn’t had any experience” of rapid growth in either type of dispensary.

Seifi said municipalities cannot prohibit dispensaries, only regulate them.

Councillor Angie Quaale sounded a note of caution, saying Township pharmacies are dispensing methadone to patients, some of them people “arriving in BMWs” and she is not convinced more regulation by the municipality is needed.

— with files from Brenda Anderson and Monique Tamminga