Marijuana News Highlights in Canada
This Week in Weed – May 9-13, 2016
It has been a big week for weed in Canada, the United States, and around the world. For a roundup of the big victories and major battles ahead, look no further than our highlights:
Jean Chretien and Thomas Mulcair call for Decriminalization of Cannabis in Canada
Former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who in 2003 unsuccessfully attempted to decriminalize possession of marijuana before Parliament was prorogued for other reasons, has again spoken out for the need to end cannabis prohibition.
When asked Monday May 9 about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to legalize the sale of marijuana, Chretien said he is in favour of decriminalization.
“What is completely unacceptable, in my judgment, is a young man smoking marijuana will have a criminal record for the rest of his life – he can’t cross the border — come on,” the former PM said after a ceremony marking the official opening of a public policy think-tank at Dalhousie University in Halifax.
Mr Chretien’s remarks follow those of NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, who has called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to decriminalize marijuana possession and sale as well. Mulcair claims that cannabis decriminalization, which was a part of the party’s platform in the 2015 election, has been NDP policy for forty years.
“Mr. Trudeau himself, while he was an MP, smoked marijuana,” Mulcair has said recently. “He talked about that. So, why is it fair for him to have nothing and for a young person who does the exact same thing to wind up with a criminal record that’s going to follow them for the rest of their lives?”
For more information:
Licenses, the Board of Variance and Tickets in Vancouver and Toronto
The City of Vancouver, once a mecca for marijuana, is now leading the way in a licensing and enforcement crackdown against dispensaries at the public behest of municipal councilor Kerry Jang. Since Vancouver began fining unlicensed dispensaries continuing to operate after April 29, Toronto’s Mayor John Tory has announced that he is also looking into regulations for the growing cannabis industry there: https://cannabisincanada.ca/toronto-mayor-asks-staff-to-begin-looking-at-dispensary-regulation/
Tory has tasked the city’s Municipal Licensing and Standards executive director Tracey Cook to investigate licensing programs similar to Vancouver and Victoria and report back in June.
“In the meantime, I would ask that you employ, in conjunction with the Toronto Police Service, whatever enforcement mechanisms are currently available to you, to address the health and safety concerns of neighbours and businesses in the communities where these marijuana dispensaries are currently operating unlawfully,” Tory wrote.
Meanwhile, last week in Vancouver, the Buddha’s Sister and 44 other dispensaries received a fine for $250. This raised an initial $11,000 in revenue for the city and was met with immediate resistance by patients and dispensary owners alike.
The Buddha’s Sister has received two fines since then for another $250 each. This week, on May 11, the City reported 78 tickets to 60 dispensaries has resulted in $20,000 for the city – at the expense of patients and taxpayers.
Meanwhile, dispensaries denied a license in the City Council’s first round of regulations and licensing, but which have decided to appeal this decision, are in the Board of Variance, where outcomes are true to the Board’s name – variable.
In some cases, the board delivers wins for dispensaries appealing the City’s decision to deny them a license on vague and unjust grounds, but in others it denies licenses to dispensaries with seemingly similar cases.
According to Cannabis in Canada, a recent Board of Variance board meeting granted a variance to Sunrise Wellness Kingsway Foundation, after already denying Cannpassion, a dispensary that shares a building with the Sunrise.
“The board have shown there is zero consistency in their reasoning,” Cannabis Growers in Canada’s Ian Dawkins has said. “How can you have two dispensaries side by side, and pick the one that is closer to the school?”
“Without some consistency and some leadership from the City, this situation will just continue to get more and more confusing and litigious. The taxpayers of Vancouver are going to be on the hook for a huge legal bill, because their City Council wants to go well beyond their authority and pick winners and losers,” Mr. Dawkins insisted.
Mr. Dawkins is picking up where pot activists such as Jodie Emery have left off – targeting the unfair and biased nature of the regulations against dispensaries in general.
“Regulations are fine if they’re fair and just, but that’s the problem,” says Emery. The marijuana activist opened a dispensary on Beatty Street on the day city bylaw enforcement began, April 29.
“The 300-metre limit is not fair when liquor stores are close to schools and when children buy candy at corner stores where cigarettes are sold. So these rules are not really justifiable. It’s simply an anti-marijuana bias,” Emery pointed out.
Multiple protests, including the Global Marijuana March on Saturday May 7, and a sit in a City Hall on April 29 known as Protect Our Dispensaries, have indicated the public and marijuana activists’ intention to fight unfair regulations to the end.
Kerry Jang claims to have received threatening calls from marijuana activists in response to the enforcement effort. World Cannabis activists deny that any of their supporters made such a call, saying that Jang is exaggerating the tone of a call made by member Chris Reekie, who “said ‘Mr. Jang my name’s Chris Reekie, I’m with World Cannabis, I’m outside with people, we want answers on why you’re not in the office today, we want answers on why you’re trying to shut down our dispensaries… He took it as a threat and hung up the phone on me.”
Activists – please make no threats! Just remind the city of the real danger to public safety: driving the marijuana industry underground and onto the streets again, funneling between $10-$29 million dollars back into the black market in the next year. You can also call the city at 604-873-7000 or email the mayor and council at firstname.lastname@example.org or turn up to Board of Variance hearings at 425 West 12 (City Hall) in support of unlicensed dispensaries in appeals.
For more coverage on the enforcement against dispensaries in Vancouver, marijuana activists’ protests, and the allegations about the threatening call to Kerry Jang, click here:
Cannabis Edibles in Victoria
While the City of Vancouver cracks down, Victoria is adopting more reasonable rules so far for the dispensaries serving patients on the island. This past week, Victoria announced draft rules for dispensaries that permit the sale of edibles, an important win for patients that cannot or do not wish to smoke for health reasons.
This decision respects the findings of the Supreme Court of Canada, which in a landmark case last year ruled that patients have a right to consume cannabis through forms other than smoking, from lozenges to cookies.
Mayor Lisa Helps said her city’s rules are not much looser than Vancouver’s, but the business licensing fee of about $5,000 in Victoria, compared to the $30,000 that for-profit shops in Vancouver must pay, is just one example of a regulatory regime on the island that is more favorable to cannabis activists and patients than in Vancouver.
Under provincial law, Helps said her city can only charge enough to recover the costs of regulation, while Vancouver has the ability to “charge whatever the heck they want” under its own special charter, according to the Globe and Mail article below:
Could Kerry Jang pay a “political price” for cracking down on dispensaries while Victoria and the rest of Canada does not?
We hope so! Read the column in the Georgia Straight reminding cannabis supporters to hold Jang accountable for his decisions in upcoming elections.