High fees and lack of access in the Downtown Eastside are two issues for cannabis advocacy group.
Sensible BC acknowledges that the City of Vancouver’s draft “Regulation of Retail Dealers for Medical Marijuana-Related Uses” is a huge step forward in the battle for marijuana reform, not only in Vancouver but for the entire country.
As Canada’s largest advocacy group for marijuana legalization, Sensible BC generally agrees with the proposed policy that will be presented to Vancouver City Council on Tuesday, April 28th.
“We really feel this is a step in the right direction,” said Dana Larsen, Founder and Director of Sensible BC. “This is a landmark policy that is the first of it’s kind in Canada, which will legitimize and protect medical cannabis dispensaries in Vancouver. We’re excited to be a part of this, and we hope that more municipalities will adopt similar policies across Canada.”
While Sensible BC believes that the majority of the policy is acceptable, the grassroots organization still wants to see some changes before the regulations are passed by Vancouver City Council.
“Two issues we’re concerned about is the very high $30,000 annual fee, on top of the proposed $5000 business license. $35,000 a year in fees is extremely high in comparison to all other fees levied by the City of Vancouver. Charging relatively small retail stores more than 80 times the amount charged to retail liquor stores is simply excessive,” said Larsen.
On top of the high fees, Sensible BC is also concerned about ease of access for those who need medicinal marijuana for harm reduction purposes. The city’s policy even states that “studies attest to the efficacy of marijuana…as a substitute for more harmful drugs (e.g.: alcohol, tobacco, prescription opiates)...and as a means to reduce the rates of opioid overdose deaths…”
Yet the city’s policy forbids dispensaries anywhere in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, except for along Hastings Street and Main Street. However, there are very few locations along either street that are possible, given the concentration of schools and community centres in the area. This begs the question of how easily patients in Vancouver’s poorest community can access medicinal marijuana for harm reduction purposes, given the extremely limited number of allowed locations.
“Sensible BC is committed to ensuring that harm reduction strategies, zoning and buffer zones are all designed in the best interests of the people accessing those services as well as those who live and work in those neighbourhoods,” said Larsen.
Sensible BC will be reaching out to dispensaries in the coming days to help identify key concerns and will work with the business community and City Council to address these issues.