Court orders closure of at least 28 illegal cannabis dispensaries in Vancouver



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A British Columbia judge ruled in favor of the city of Vancouver in a fight with illegal cannabis stores, granting the city hall an injunction to immediately shut down 28 or more stores that were disqualified from obtaining a commercial license under a landmark federal law passed three years ago .

Supreme Court supreme court decision Christopher Hinkson said Vancouver was right to begin restricting the locations of an explosive number of such illicit stores and rejected the owners' claim that the city was overstepping its jurisdiction to regulate the sale of the drug, which is a federal matter.

"Retail marijuana dispensaries can raise issues that affect health, safety, public nuisance, and youth exposure, but like any other business operating in a county, the operation of marijuana dispensaries can result in conflicts of use of the land, local economy and character of a neighborhood, "said the decision. The critical facts in this process are not in dispute: nongovernmental respondents admit that they operate a retail store selling marijuana products, do not currently have a commercial license as needed … and that each operates a business that does not agree with … the municipal regulation of zoning of the city ".

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Many of the shops in the legal battle could not get a license because they operate 300 meters from each other or from a community school or community center, which violates Vancouver's status.

He declined to decide whether Ottawa's ban on medical marijuana sales, which remains in effect with legalizing the drug, violates Charter's entitlement to reasonable access to the drug. Offenders' lawyers argued that the huge increase in illicit dispensaries across the country several years ago was a result of patients "voting in the air" after the federal government did not give people the ability to buy medical marijuana in person .

Katherine Holm, the city's chief licensing officer, said in an interview with The Globe and Mail that Vancouver was very pleased with the decision and that the 28 offending shops need to close immediately or face fines ordered by the court, jail time or both.

"We are working on the details, we will develop and implement a plan to ensure that this decision is honored," she said two hours after receiving the trial.

On June 25 of this year, the city had issued 3,244 tickets worth $ 2.4 million to the stores and these should be paid to the city, the judge ruled.

"This is very useful and we are very pleased to hear that this has been decided, so we will continue to await the payment and collection of these fines," Holm said.

Despite being the face of Canada's underground cannabis industry, B.C. has only a handful of licensed retail outlets to sell cannabis.

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Vancouver had 14 candidates following the first stages of the licensing licensing hurdles and approved four other locations as complying with city rules, which means they are awaiting a final B.C. decision before opening.

John Conroy, a leading advocate for offending stores, said he was disappointed with the decision and the judge's refusal to assess the constitutionality of the current medical marijuana system.

He said he is now considering challenging that gap in access to medical marijuana sales in federal court where he and other staff previously forced Ottawa to allow licensed patients to grow their own cannabis plants.

As for the stores named in the injunction and any others opened without the blessing of the city hall, Conroy said that the authorities now have the legal right to turn them off. But he said he hoped the city would show some discretion and allow operators like the B.C. Compassion Club Society, which opened illegally in 1997, to remain open and serve their patients.

"I would expect that those who have no history, reputation and credibility – and who may not be strictly medical – can be turned off," he said. "I hope the police and the authorities are able to distinguish between those who are and those who are not."

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