Sidney medicinal cannabis dispensary gets a reprieve

Dispensary by the Sea business license still suspended as Town investigates a large gray area.

Sidney’s Dispensary by the Sea remains closed while the Town looks at what other jurisdictions are doing in response to their growing numbers

Sidney’s Dispensary by the Sea will not lose its business license outright and the municipality will investigate what other communities are doing about the proliferation of medical marijuana store fronts.

Chris Porter, a director with the society that runs the Dispensary, says the decision by Town council Monday night to not revoke their business licence puts them in a better position. The licence is still under suspension and they cannot open their doors, but Porter said they find it positive that Councillor Erin Bremner-Mitchell has taken it upon herself to research what other cities are doing by allowing such dispensaries to operate.

I want to know what our options are,” she said during Monday’s council meeting. “What are other municipalities doing?

Both Porter and Jason Heit, another Dispensary director, appealed to council to re-instate their business licence after it was suspended this spring. That happened after the Dispensary on Second Street was raided by the RCMP and an arrest was made.

To date, both parties say no charges have been filed by the Crown in the matter.

Heit called on council to look at how they can regulate medical marijuana dispensaries like theirs, as the issue is not going away.

The federal Liberal government recently formed a task force on the issue of their election campaign promise to legalize additional aspects of medicinal marijuana, including how it can be accessed by the public. For Porter, that access was guaranteed by the Supreme Court of Canada decision in February which made access to the product a right, giving the federal government a deadline to create new legislation.

In the meantime, however, it is still illegal under the existing Health Canada regulations to operate storefront medicinal marijuana dispensaries. The conflicting positions taken on the issue have created a gray area, where a flood of dispensaries have opened up on the west coast, ostensibly testing the waters early.

Coun. Tim Chad, backed by Coun. Mervyn Lougher-Goodey and Mayor Steve Price came out clearly on the side of the current laws, saying the Sidney Dispensary contravened its licence with illegal activities, resulting in the police action.

Coun. Peter Wainwright countered that since there had been no charges yet, the Town was not in a position to revoke their license.

“Under their license, they still cannot do anything illegal and enforcement is up to the RCMP,” he said. “By leaving them in limbo, we’re still not allowing them to do anything.”

Bremner-Mitchell said she wanted to know what options Sidney has, based on what other municipalities are doing. She volunteered to research that herself, after Town staff rebuffed the idea.

“This is now beyond the scope of the Town,” said Chief Administrative Officer Randy Humble. “It’s getting into federal jurisdictions. I’m a little befuddled about what staff are now expected to come up with in regards to specifics (in the Town’s business licensing for Health and Wellness Offices).”

He added the matter was made clear back in the early spring when the Dispensary applied for the license — that they could do nothing illegal or risk losing the licence.

Wainwright suggested giving Bremner-Mitchell until the next council meeting in early August to do the research.

Porter said while the decision still means their business licence in Sidney is suspended, he’s hopeful the Town will give the issue more thought.

“At this point, we are being patient,” he said. “We will work with council and staff where we can and we won’t pursue any action against the Town for a lack of action.”

The Dispensary is still paying rent on their space in Sidney but Porter said they now feel the council — while still split on the matter — is open for further debate.