B.C. Court allows forced closure of illegal dispensaries in Vancouver

Published Mar 11, 2019 10:00 a.m. ET
Canadian Press, Lars Hagberg

 On December 14, 2018, the Supreme Court of British Columbia decided to order all illegal cannabis stores in Vancouver to shutter their doors for good. The city of Vancouver submitted 53 injunctions against any Vancouver hemp stores that were selling cannabis products without a license. This came as a shock to Vancouver hemp store owners that jumped every legal hurdle possible to obtain a permit through Vancouver’s legal test case.

Legal Test Case

Before forced closures began, back in 2015 the city of Vancouver voted to offer licenses to medical marijuana retailers including several compassion clubs despite both federal and provincial laws deeming them illegal. At the time 176 cannabis vendors applied for permits, while only 28 fully participated as the rest slowly closed down. Of those 28 or 70% of them did not meet the zoning requirements based on their locations. The few that did apply were not able to celebrate immediately as licensing through the city also required development permits and a municipal business license to officially open within a deemed grey area of the law.

Obtaining one was so difficult that the very first MMRU (Medical Marijuana Related Use) license wasn’t granted until May of 2016. Nearly a full year after the city first announced its plans to allow illegal Cannabis stores in Vancouver to apply. In the last four years, only 17 more marijuana dispensaries have successfully received an MMRU license.

BC Supreme Court's Final Decision


On December 18 of, 2018, the Supreme Court of BC released their final decision which read as follows. “This decision reaffirms the authority over land use and our municipal business licensing for cannabis retail stores and confirms the regulatory regime introduced in 2015 was well within the city’s jurisdiction to establish. It also shows that any cannabis retail stores operating outside of city regulations can and will be enforcedagainst using all of the tools at the city’s disposal to the fullest extent moving forward.”

The Future of Illegal Cannabis Stores in Vancouver

Now that the legalization of marijuana has come to pass with it came regulations and limits that none of the illegal cannabis stores in Vancouver can function within. The federal government placed the onus on each province to decide how to regulate individual sales in their region. As such, the MMRU permits are being revoked while the province takes over introducing new licensing requirements. For a Vancouver hemp store to open now, they must obtain developing permits, meet all municipal zoning requirements, and apply for a provincial cannabis license.

British Columbia’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch is currently in control of regulation surrounding cannabis sales in the province. They have recently announced that they intend to open their line of government operated cannabis dispensaries that are run by the already existing BC Liquor Stores. So far only one location has been finalized and will be in Kamloops British Columbia which is located approximately 250 kilometers northeast of Vancouver. So far 14 applications from retail cannabis hopefuls have been received. Ten of them have been told to proceed to the next step of the legal process to move forward, and the remaining 4are still in review with the city.



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