Only 10 Vancouver pot shops have been licensed in the last year

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Jenni Sheppard May 18, 2017 4:12 pm 653

One year after the first marijuana dispensary business licence was issued in Vancouver, a total of only 10 pot shop licences have been issued at all, according to the latest City figures.

As well, some 51 pot shops are still operating in violation of the City’s medical marijuana bylaw, imposing location and permit requirements on any shop wishing to operate here.

Those pot shops are now subject to daily $1,000 tickets, and while the City has recouped $125,500 in fines, it is still owed more than half a million dollars ($587,750).

Meanwhile, the City has filed 27 injunctions to try to get the non-compliant pot shops to close, but these are still winding their way through the court system.

Licensed pot shops ‘fit into neighbourhoods’

Coun. Kerry Jang agreed the process applicants must go through is lengthy, but overall, he thinks it’s worked really well.

“I’ve gone to visit a couple of the licensed pot shops, they’re beautiful!” Jang told Daily Hive in a phone call.

“They fit into neighbourhoods, they’re discreet, they’re very clear what they are, they don’t let kids in.”

“And I have not yet received a single complaint about any of the ones we’ve licensed.”

Small number of licences issued ‘ridiculous’

However, cannabis activist and pot shop owner Dana Larsen told Daily Hive in a phone interview it’s “ridiculous” so few licences have been issued in such a long time.

“The rules they put in place are far, far more strict than the rules you have around liquor establishments,” said Larsen.

“I think most people in Vancouver support local dispensaries and would like to see the rules opened up a little bit.”

Location, permit, licence requirements

The Wealth Shop, Vancouver's first fully licensed medical marijuana dispensary (Jenni Sheppard)

The Wealth Shop, Vancouver’s first licensed medical marijuana dispensary (Jenni Sheppard)

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 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, but a spokesperson said the City is still “compiling this data.”

We also asked where the $125,000 recouped from tickets issued to pot shops is being spent, but did not receive a response at the time of writing.

See also

Full pot shops figures update

Here’s a full update of where Vancouver’s pot shops stand. All figures were provided to Daily Hive by the City and confirmed as current on May 18, 2017.

Stage 1 – preliminary application

  • 178 pot shops have made a preliminary application (176 applied when initially invited back in August 2015)
  • 27 pot shops were immediately approved to pass to the next stage
  • 151 pot shops have had their applications rejected
  • 69 of the rejected pot shops appealed
    • 26 had their rejections overturned
    • 41 had their rejections upheld
  • 19 of the rejected pot shops relocated and had their applications approved
  • After appeals, a total of 72 pot shops have passed this initial stage
  • 51 pot shops are still open without permission and subject to enforcement
    • 1,521 tickets issued
    • 352 tickets paid
    • $125,000 recouped in daily fines
    • $587,750 still owed in daily fines
    • City has filed 27 court injunctions against pot shops
    • Pot shops have filed 3 court cases against City
    • Zero court cases have been resolved

A map of pot shops open in violation of the bylaw and subject to enforcement can be found below or on the City of Vancouver website: vancouver.ca

Stage 2 – development permit

  • 72 of the pot shops made it this far
  • 35 pot shops have been granted development permits
  • 13 pot shops have development permit applications under review
  • 14 were refused development permits
    • 8 appealed to the Board of Variance and had refusal overturned
    • 5 relocated and reapplied
    • 1 relocated while applying under a different location

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


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Jenni Sheppard
Senior Staff Writer at Daily Hive, the evolution of Vancity Buzz. Happy Vancouverite. Traveller, snowboarder, foodie, film fan, feminist, geek, cheesemaker, curler. Have a story to tell? Email [email protected]

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