Retail pot store in Sidney a non-starter

Town says they will not issue a business license; police vow to enforce drug laws.

  • Jan. 28, 2016 3:00 p.m.
A proposed marijuana dispensary in Sidney may draw the attention of the RCMP.

A proposed marijuana dispensary in Sidney may draw the attention of the RCMP.

A proposed pot dispensary will not be getting a business licence from the Town of Sidney.

What proponents of the medicinal marijuana storefront might be getting, is attention from the police.

A new sign was recently painted on a retail storefront on Second Street at Beacon Avenue in Sidney, advertising Dispensary by the Sea, directing people to an entrance leading to an upper floor. A sign on the door stated the dispensary would be opening soon, as it seeks an inspection. However Randy Humble, chief administrative officer for the Town of Sidney, said based on the proponent’s application, it will not get a business license.

“They have applied for a marijuana dispensary business license under the health and wellness category,” Humble said, noting this is the first time that Sidney has had such a request.

He said staff spoke with the Sidney North Saanich RCMP who advised them the issue is over the legality of operating a retail marijuana dispensary.

Corporal Erin Fraser of the RCMP said Health Canada, the federal body that regulates and licences medicinal marijuana production and delivery to patients, has stated that storefront dispensaries are not allowed.

“There is no legal grounds for a storefront operation to sell marijuana,” she said, adding if the proposed dispensary were to go ahead and sell pot, police would treat the owners no differently than people who sell the drug on the street.

“It’s simply not legal,” Fraser continued. “We’ve never had one here in Sidney, so the RCMP here does not have a specific policy. There are something like 20-odd places like this operating in Victoria, none of which are legal.”

Fraser added police will treat such an operation as illegal distribution of drugs. She added local RCMP have met with the proponent of the storefront dispensary, outlining the current law and ramifications if they proceed as planned.

Phone calls to the number provided on the Dispensary by the Sea sign were not returned by press time.

Similar marijuana dispensaries in Victoria and Nanaimo have been targeted by police. In late November last year, the Nanaimo RCMP executed search warrants at three dispensaries, close to three weeks after warning storefronts to close down or face potential enforcement. Police put 11 dispensaries on notice Nov. 12 that they had seven days to stop selling marijuana and marijuana derivatives or could be subject to enforcement, including the arrest of employees and patrons and seizure of “offence-related” property. Some of the dispensaries re-opened only a few days after the police raids.

Humble said any illegal activity will fall to the RCMP to handle. The Town will only look to regulate business license applications in the matter. He admitted Sidney’s hands may be tied if proponents apply for a license calling the storefront a “health and wellness centre,” as that could be allowed under current zoning bylaws.

“At the end of the day, enforcement comes into place if the product (marijuana) is sold,” he said.

Fraser said people are looking for a legitimate way to access marijuana for medicinal purposes after the federal court ruled in 2014 that people had a right to reasonable access to a legal supply of marijuana produced for medicinal purposes. That legal supply is regulated by Health Canada.

According to Health Canada, the distribution of marijuana for medical purposes can only be conducted by licensed producers and only through direct delivery to registered clients, a person responsible for a client or to a client’s healthcare practitioner.

On Health Canada’s website, the agency states, “The only legal source of marijuana for medical purposes is through commercial licensed producers responsible for all aspects of production and distribution.”

In its frequently asked questions, Health Canada states production sites can only be located indoors and storefronts cannot be operated.


— with files from Health Canada and the Nanaimo News Bulletin (Black Press)