WeeMedical Dispensary Society’s effort to open a marijuana dispensary in Chilliwack is akin to having “jumped the queue” ahead of legalization.
That was the essence of city council’s rationale in rejecting the business licence application from WeeMedical, for the second time, in a unanimous vote on Tuesday.
“I’m quite disappointed but I am not really shocked,” said WeeMedical director May Joan Liu on the steps of city hall after the decision.
Of the 10 WeeMedical dispensaries in B.C. only one in Campbell River was ever raided, but it opened again she said. They operate as non-profits, and are therefore exempt from needing licences.
Fines total $44,000 for WeeMedical and the property owner. Are the fines paid yet?
“No they aren’t and we don’t intend to,” said Liu.
The WeeMedical doors were kicked in during the raid, product and the cash register were taken, and the signage was stripped.
If they ever open their doors again, it will be more civil disobedience.
“WeeMedical has no intention of breaking any bylaws,” Liu said in Chambers, adding they always try to work with city councils wherever possible, “to provide the Chilliwack community with a safe, accessible and accountable haven for their medical marijuana.”
Issuing them a business licence would give local residents options so they will not have to travel to other communities, Liu argued.
“There are no victims here and yet they choose to spend their money this way to persecute us.”
Coun. Sam Waddington said that although 90 per cent of the policing costs were paid for by the city, it did not have the authority to direct RCMP.
Coun. Jason Lum, chair of the public safety committee said it’s premature for Chilliwack to consider issuing a business licence to this dispensary, even though there’s been discussion about the federal government decriminalizing by next year.
“There is no doubt in my mind that the regulation of dispensing of medical marijuana is going to happen,” he said. “But this is too early right now.”
City staff however should begin researching changes to the zoning that would allow this kind of activity, “without delay,” Lum said.
Mayor Sharon Gaetz said she thought WeeMedical had just “jumped the queue” as there were other businesses may want in, and there needed to be an “even playing field.”
“This is a tough discussion for council to have,” she said, acknowledging that the Prime Minister had made his intentions to move toward legalization clear.
Municipalities can learn from places like Colorado or Washington, she said, and maybe avoid some of the roadblocks or unintended consequences, when the new regulatory framework comes down.
After the illegal dispensary was shut down the first time in late April by RCMP, it opened again shortly after in an act of “civil disobedience,” against the business licence rejection. It was also raided a second time.
“Civil disobedience happens when laws need to be changed in accordance with changing times,” said Liu.
The problem is there are “no Zoning Bylaws in Chilliwack that allow for a medical marijuana dispensary business” and that’s because” it is a new emerging industry” requiring a whole new regulatory framework.
Liu said she didn’t agree they’re “jumping the queue” in Chilliwack, and they could make some provisional zoning changes to allow it.
“All our dispensaries are located in retail or commercial zones very similar to 46004 Fifth Avenue. There are now 16 WeeMedical Dispensaries in total.”
Some of the WeeMedical dispensaries are in Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Sechelt, Squamish, Powell River, North Vancouver, Campbell River, Delta, and Toronto. Port Alberni has changed its zoning bylaws, while Sechelt is working on it, she said.