While “medical marijuana dispensaries” are as ubiquitous as coffee shops in downtown Vancouver, municipal governments in the Fraser Valley are nipping these operations in the bud.
Dave Smith and four other directors of the Motacan Compassion Society opened their doors on 271 Street in downtown Aldergrove on February 1 and within days received a letter from Bull & Hauser, the solicitors for the Township of Langley, demanding that they cease operations by Feb. 29.
Smith says Motacan’s directors “are trying to follow the regulations and rules” and have tried to talk to the Township staff and council about how they could meet those requirements, but “no one will talk to us, they all refer us to the lawyers (Bull & Hauser).”
According to the letter from Bull & Hauser a dispensary is not a legal use.
Smith also put in a request to bring a delegation to council’s public meeting but “they never called us back.”
Motacan ceased operating as a dispensary on March 1, but Smith says they would like a business licence to continue to operate as public consultation and education centre.
“We’re not into the recreational side of cannabis, we’re strictly the medicinal side,” says Smith, noting that some of the products, such as the topical creams, don’t contain any of the active THC found in recreational pot.
“More people are choosing this route, for pain relief, for rheumatoid arthritis, and so on,” says Smith.
“We don’t sell anything to just anyone, they must have a doctor’s referral, everything is lab tested, and we monitor how much people are purchasing.
“We are helping people, not hurting them.”
Smith said Motacan originally had planned to open in Mission and while municipal staff seemed receptive to the proposal, “the RCMP said ‘not a chance.’ So we came to Aldergrove instead.”
Another “compassion club” dispensary in Deroche was raided by police a few months ago and shut down for good after a fire in the old wood frame building.
Abbotsford is the process of shutting down a third dispensary, Mary Jane’s Glass and Gifts on South Fraser Way, as well as ban owner Don Briere from opening any similar businesses in the future.
Briere, who owns over a dozen dispensaries in B.C. and Ontario, was denied a business licence by the city, which requires compliance with all Canadian laws. Legislation passed by the previous Conservative government and still on the books states all medical marijuana must be bought and sold directly from Health Canada and delivered by mail. Last month, the Supreme Court overturned the law’s provisions banning homegrown marijuana, although it gave the governing Liberals six months to write a new law.
Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said that the city is using bylaw enforcement to fight the dispensary now, but if the injunction is won and still disobeyed, the police would likely become involved.
“We have an obligation as a local government to uphold laws, otherwise you have chaos,” said Braun.
-with files from Kelvin Gawley, Black Press