Changing Sidney’s business license bylaw to include medicinal marijuana dispensaries appears to be work Town council doesn’t want to do.
Council voted on Monday night instead to revoke the license of the Dispensary by the Sea on Second Street, citing the fact that the business had been selling cannabis products — contravening not only the Town’s bylaw but federal laws as well.
Councillor Erin Bremner-Mitchell says she researched three other municipalities that had decided to adjust their business license bylaw to accommodate marijuana dispensaries. She had, at council’s July 11 meeting, spoke in support of the Dispensary by the Sea by suggesting the Town look into ways to allow the business to function during a time of transition — rather than revoke their business license outright.
The federal government has promised to change laws regarding the legality of medicinal marijuana and how people access it. That stemmed from a court decision in February on people’s right to access medicinal cannabis products.
Since then, dispensaries have sprung up in communities across B.C., creating challenges for towns and cities not prepared for them. Those dispensaries that sell cannabis products from a storefront are technically in violation of the law. Health Canada regulations stipulate that registered medicinal marijuana users can only access the product directly by mail from a licensed producer.
Bremner-Mitchell on July 11 had been rebuffed by Town staff, whom she asked to look into changing the local bylaw. Instead, she volunteered to look into the options and report back this month.
“I researched only three places,” she said. “It requires debate and public discussion (to make) amendments to local bylaws.
“Next, there is a long list of staff priorities and projects … we should delay this until council handles its strategic priorities (list).’
Bremner-Mitchell suggested council defer the matter until after the federal government changes the laws and said in the meantime she supported the staff recommendation to revoke the Dispensary’s business license.
Coun. Peter Wainwright agreed that what the Dispensary was doing was technically illegal.
“I don’t see that they are doing anything other than supplying people (who have) a prescription with this material,” he said.
Wainwright added he also didn’t see the sense of turning away a local business, forcing people who use the service to go into Victoria.
Bremner-Mitchell countered that making a change to the bylaw would set a precedent, as the business in question was operating outside of the parameters of their business license.
Council voted 6-1 to revoke the license, Coun. Cam McLennan and Barbara Fallot changing their vote on the issue, compared with their support for Bremner-Mitchell’s research during the July 11 council meeting.
Council also elected to review the concept of changing its licensing bylaw to accommodate medicinal marijuana dispensaries when it next reviews its strategic priorities list.