Pot buyers club backs regulation

The Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club is throwing its support behind the City of Victoria's efforts to regulate marijuana shops.

The Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club is throwing its support behind the City of Victoria’s efforts to regulate the increasing amount of marijuana shops in town.

“We’re very supportive of the direction the city is taking. This is something that the oldest of dispensaries have been asking for, for more than 20 years, some form of regulation,” said Dieter Macpherson, advisor to the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries and executive director of the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club.

During a meeting last week, city council voted in favour of moving towards a regulatory approach to marijuana-related dispensaries.

Council has directed staff to draft new business and zoning bylaws that would regulate businesses that sell marijuana. Amendments could include imposing annual $30,000 business licence fees specific to the type of business, regulations regarding signs and merchandise in storefront windows, record keeping, limits on hours of operation and regulation to minors on the premises.

According to Macpherson, the proposed regulations shouldn’t have an effect on club patients.

“We have to see how the regulations end up looking. We expect that we will participate in any public discussion of forum, so that we can ensure we’re still able to serve the people that we do,” said he, adding that the proposed $30,000 business licensing fees are issues he thinks council can be moved on.

“There’s no reason that dispensaries shouldn’t be treated like any other business, especially when it comes to community impact,” said Macpherson.

The motion comes in response to a staff report brought to council stating the number of unlicensed medical marihuana dispensaries has increased significantly in the past year. According to the report, there are 18 medical marijuana-related shops, of which only seven are operating with a license.

The businesses have also generated a number of complaints from nearby businesses, regarding increased foot traffic, odour and exposure of youth to the sale of marijuana.

Coun. Ben Isitt, who put forward the motion at council, said he hopes the regulations will not have an effect on long-standing establishments such as the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club, but will provide a framework for regulation of the substance.

“I expect, what a regulatory system will do is provide a pathway to compliance, rather than treating these establishments as outlawed establishments,” said Isitt. “I hope it has a minimal affect on long-standing establishments like the Cannabis Buyers Club. I think they have a proven track record of operating responsible in the community and providing a source of medicine to people experiencing pain.”

Isitt said the report by staff will be “substantial” in size and that it is a priority of city council’s.

Mayor Lisa Helps said a town hall meeting is expected to be scheduled with community stakeholders as well.