More than a year after the first marijuana dispensary business licence was issued in Vancouver, the municipal government is still owed more than a million dollars in pot shop tickets.
A total of only 11 pot shop licences have been issued so far, with 64 pot shops still operating in violation of the City of Vancouver’s medical marijuana bylaw.
Those pot shops are now subject to daily $1,000 tickets, and while the municipality has recouped $160,000 in fines, it is still owed $1,040,000.
Meanwhile, the City has filed 53 injunctions to try to get the non-compliant pot shops to close, but these are still winding their way through the court system.
The City’s pot shop bylaw was passed back in June 2015, and Vancouver’s dispensaries were first invited to begin applying for licensing by August 21 of the same year.
But it took until May 2016 before the first cannabis dispensary business licence was issued, to The Wealth Shop in West Point Grey.
Under the City bylaw, dispensaries must be in commercial zones, at least 300 m from schools, community centres, neighbourhood houses and other pot shops.
They must then apply for a development permit, and if successful, apply for a business licence, at a cost of $30,000 for retail stores or $1,000 for compassion clubs.
Some 176 pot shop operators applied when invited back in 2015. Most were unsuccessful. Some never opened, some voluntarily closed.
Those staying open in violation of the bylaw initially faced fines of $250/day, but this was increased to $1,000/day in December 2016.
The City introduced the rules around marijuana dispensaries in a bid to regulate the rapid spread of pot shops across Vancouver.
Although the shops technically remain illegal under federal law, Justin Trudeau has introduced a bill to legalize pot across Canada as early as next year.
Daily Hive asked the City how much it had spent on enforcement of the bylaw, including ticketing and court action.
A City of Vancouver spokesperson said the total cost of regulating the marijuana industry in Vancouver “has not been tabulated.”
“There are currently two by-law officers who are dedicated to marijuana dispensary regulation, ” he said by email.
We also asked where the $160,000 recouped from tickets issued to pot shops is being spent. The spokesperson said collected fines go into “general revenue.”
Here’s an update of where Vancouver’s pot shops stand, provided to Daily Hive by the City. New figures are current as of August 15, 2017.
Note: Daily Hive requested the figures marked with an asterisk (*) and in italics, but the City declined to provide them, so these are from May, the last time the City provided them.
Stage 1 – preliminary application
Stage 2 – development permit
Stage 3 – business licence
A map showing the locations of all those stores eligible to apply for or issued with a business licence, can be found below or on the City of Vancouver website: vancouver.ca