Medicinal marijuana clubs gain additional hearing from Victoria council

One applicant rejected over minimum distance requirements

The latest cannabis dispensary rezoning applications caused a stir in council chambers last week.

While the selling of marijuana remains legally murky, council has continued permitting the retail sale of cannabis and considered three applications from existing operators at a Committee of the Whole meeting Aug. 10. While one was initially denied because of minimum distance requirements, another drew special attention.

Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe, who supported a successful motion to send its application to public hearing, said the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club warranted further consideration.

“Although it seems new to many people, there have been people in our community that have been fighting hard for the opportunity to [provide] medicinal marijuana for many, many years, and this is one of the compassion clubs that have been doing this kind of work,” she said.

While the dispensary has been fighting for the legal right to sell prescribed marijuana since long before the new wave of dispensaries opened, city staff recommended denying the application because Cannabis Buyers Club violates the new requirement for outlets to be at least 400 metres from another dispensary.

Coun. Geoff Young opposed the application, as he has done with every other. He proposed turning it down and re-considering council’s approach to approving these types of businesses.

“At this meeting, without debate, we accepted a staff recommendation to turn down a cannabis dispensary application because of our policy about the distance of other dispensaries. We now are proposing to send this one on to possible approval,” he said.

“At the same meeting, we stick with the policy and then we change it, because of the characteristics of the operator who happens to be renting the space that we’re rezoning.”

On this note, Mayor Lisa Helps agreed with Young and reminded council that they cannot legally consider who is renting the space when a property is designed for rezoning.

At this point the City of Victoria cannot legally distinguish between “compassion clubs” and operators simply involved in the retail sale of cannabis. The City of Vancouver, however, has been granted special permission to do so by the province.

The dispensary application for Shady Mountain Health and Wellness Society, operating as Shadow Mountain at 543 Herald St., was initially rejected at Committee of the Whole, however the Mayor later made a motion at city council that night to reconsider the application in September. Applications for the Cannabis Buyers Club and the Vancouver Island Compassion Society, another longstanding medicinal marijuana provider, were forwarded to public hearing.

UPDATED: This story was corrected to indicate one application for a dispensary that that was initially rejected is now being sent to be discussed at a later meeting. It originally stated the rezoning application had been rejected.

lauren.boothby@vicnews.com