Proposed regulations unveiled for pot shops

The City of Victoria is pushing to get regulations in place for medical marijuana businesses as more stores continue to sprout up.

The City of Victoria is pushing to get regulations in place for medical marijuana businesses as more stores continue to sprout throughout the region, even though they’re illegal.

City staff have been working with officials in Vancouver (which is facing the same problem) to put together a list of a dozen proposed regulations to license the dispensary operators. The city is now asking for public feedback through an online survey, open house and town hall meeting.

Currently, there are an estimated 30 medical marijuana-related businesses in Victoria, 26 of which are operating as storefront medical marijuana retailers.

“We won’t try and shut them down. We’ll say here is the process for getting a license,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. “Without regulations, anyone can do anything and that’s not appropriate…I would like to see it sooner than later so we can get a handle on the situation.”

Medical marijuana dispensaries have been popping up throughout B.C., prompting communities to call for local authorities to regulate them.

When it comes to policing, officers in Victoria have had ongoing conversations with dispensary operators, reminding them that there is always a risk the business could be enforced. It’s still a grey area, however, whether it would result in criminal charges given the federal government’s plan to legalize marijuana.

Dieter MacPherson, executive director of the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club, said the city’s proposed regulations are a step in the right direction.

There are, however, a few concerns around restricting edible products and on-site consumption.

“A great deal of our membership is over the age of 50. They are non-smokers so they consume alternative forms,” said MacPherson. “Many of them consume baked goods as part of their regiment to manage whatever ailment they have. This would impact them if they were to limit it to just oils.”

MacPherson expects the proposed regulations will likely reduce the number of dispensaries operating in the city and spread the remainder out. They will also provide a set of security requirements for the public so they know the businesses are operating safely.

During a three-month period last year, there were three armed robberies at medical marijuana stores in Victoria. One of the major risks for the dispensaries, noted MacPherson, is that they are an all-cash business.

An open house will be held at city hall on Feb. 22 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., followed by a town hall meeting. The online survey will be posted at victoria.ca until Friday, March 4.