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Vancouver Begins Enforcement For Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Less than a year after becoming the first city to regulate cannabis retailers, Vancouver, British Columbia is extending its long arm of the law to crackdown on unlicensed medical marijuana dispensaries and shops. However, most shop owners seem to be fighting the fines and steadfast in keeping their stores open.

Pot Activist and Owners Maintain Hard Stand

On Saturday, inspectors began visiting dispensaries and dolling out $250 fines for the first time since new regulations were put in place last year. Jodie Emery, a prominent pot activist, told the Canadian Press that she had spoken to two dispensaries that were fined, learning that they do not intend to deny accessability to their products for their patients.

Also, she clarified that dispensaries want to be legal, demanding an explanation and justification for regulations which are so prohibitive as to force clinics to close down. According to her, the rules seem arbitrary and enforcing them is costly because of the legal battles that may come up in case the shops refuse to pay the fines.

Emery echoes the sentiment of Don Briere, who received fines for six of the nine Weeds Glass & Gifts dispensaries he owns in Vancouver. Both say that the city’s efforts are going to do more harm than good. Thousands of people will lose their access to medicine, while employees of the dispensary and other related businesses will lose their jobs and landlords will be left with empty storefronts.  Briere says he intends to fight every ticket.

The city of Vancouver offered no formal comment on its efforts over the weekend, but is expected to issue more details today.

The Medical Marijuana Regulation

The rules to regulate medical marijuana businesses were formulated when the business started sprouting across Vancouver like, well, weeds. However, the city had reservations to grant permits to 140 dispensaries due to non-compliance with the new standards. Amongst the new rules, medical marijuana dispensaries can only be in operating in “commercial zones” designated by the city and must not be any closer than 300 meters to a school or other cannabis-based businesses.

Last week, Andreea Toma, the city`s licensing inspector, said that the shops that have not been issued with a legal business license must pay $250 for each day that they continue to operate. He maintained the city could also pursue a court action, which includes an injunction order aimed at forcing the shops to close or a $10,000 fine.

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