Hazy Regulations: Pot Shops In Vancouver

medical marijuana

The City of Vancouver is exploring new options to regulate the growing number of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.  The City estimates that the number of “marijuana-related” businesses increased by 100% in the past two years, bringing the total to about 80 locations. For reference, that’s more marijuana-related businesses in Vancouver than Tim Hortons (56) and it is approaching the number of Starbucks (108).  As these businesses have proliferated, some residents have complained about the locations, such as those located near schools.

The regulation of these businesses involves overlapping jurisdictions on the City and federal governments.  The criminal prohibition on the possession of marijuana is a federal area of law. Any legalization would require a change to the Criminal Code of Canada, a federal statute.  However, the City regulates businesses within its jurisdiction, including issuing business licenses and controlling zoning. Currently there are no restrictions or licensing requirements for these businesses.

On April 22, the City announced that its staff would present a proposal to City Council setting out how to regulate marijuana-related businesses.  The regulation would place restrictions on where these businesses could be located and require a $30,000 license fee.  If passed, Vancouver would become the first city in Canada to regulate marijuana dispensaries.

In response to the proposal, federal Health Minister Rona Ambose wrote a letter to the mayor expressing the federal government’s displeasure with the proposed regulations.  She wrote that: “Legitimizing and normalizing the sale and use of marijuana can have only one effect: increasing marijuana use and addiction.” The Public Safety Minister Steve Blarney supported this position, reiterating that while medical marijuana was legal by regulation, commercial sales remain illegal.  Adding to the tension between the City and the federal government is that enforcement of these laws is the purview if the Vancouver Police Department, an entity operated by the City.

This conflict between a municipality and the federal government is becoming increasingly common.  Disputes range from criminal and health issues to pipelines and oil tankers.  On May 20th, PBLI’s program “The Role of Local Governments in Canadian Federalism” will explore this dynamic area of law. It is a must-attend event for those interested in this topic. 


To view all upcoming PBLI programs click here.


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Posted on March 30, 2020  |  Comments (0)

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