Sidney pot shop appealing business licence suspension

Sidney put hold on business license after Dispensary-by-the-Sea raided by police.

Proponents of the Dispensary-by-the-Sea are trying to convince the municipality to get in on the ground floor of changes to how people access medicinal marijuana in this country.

That is, how supporters of pot dispensaries hope the laws will change in Canada, once the federal Liberals get around to proposing new legislation on how users can access their supply.

The Dispensary-by-the-Sea was raided by the RCMP earlier this spring. They had, according to police, been operating contrary to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. As well, Health Canada regulations state that the only way registered users can get medicinal marijuana is through the mail, directly from a licenced producer.

As a result of the raid, the Town of Sidney suspended the Dispensary’s business licence. They had been granted one, based on their assertion they were operating as a health and wellness office. Sidney told the PNR last year that they would not issue a license to a pot dispensary, as it was technically illegal.

Dispensary spokesperson Chris Porter was expecting to go before town council to argue their case, however that appears to have been delayed this week.

In an interview with the News Review, Porter said the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in February that Ottawa must come up with new laws to guarantee access to medicinal marijuana. He and others like him are hoping those new laws clear the way for storefront dispensaries — and hundreds of the shops have already been showing up in cities across the country.

“A lot of this is still hush-hush for many people as a result of (medicinal marijuana’s) legal status,” he said, adding he will be urging Sidney to change its own business licencing bylaw to reflect a coming change.

Sidney’s Senior Bylaw Enforcement Officer Keith Blott stated in a report to council in May that the Dispensary-by-the-Sea’s business licence “does not authorize  any use of the premises for any activity that contravenes any federal or provincial statute or regulation.”

Blott said that based on the Dispensary’s Facebook posts, it was clear “they are in the business of supplying medicinal marijuana to their clients. Under federal law this is not permitted … and is a clear violation of the terms of their business licence …”

His report recommended that the council revoke the licence outright.

Porter asserts, however, that Sidney could be left behind once the federal government changes the laws. It’s this angle he plans to argue in order to convince the town not to revoke the licence.

While he does acknowledge that current laws are stacked against dispensaries — and many on the Island have been raided by police — Porter said everyone is operating in a large grey area between the court ruling and any new legislation.

“Now, we are trying to convince Sidney that change is coming and that the Dispensary-by-the-Sea is actually legal, due to the mandate set forth by the Supreme Court.

“How do you prepare for something that’s coming?”

Porter said he sees the medicinal marijuana industry in Canada taking shape much like the government liquor stores in B.C. came into being, followed by the craft brewing explosion. He said there will be large producers to meet the demand, with smaller “craft” producers — many of which are springing up now in anticipation of change.

Porter added he hopes Sidney council will at least discuss the issue, with the goal of not revoking their business licence. He added while their licence has been suspended, the Dispensary is only offering eduction to its clients and not actively dispensing.

The debate at council had originally been set for June 13 but was delayed to June 27. Monday’s council agenda, however, did not include any speaker or presentation from Dispensary-by-the-Sea.

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