The District of Squamish has voted to start regulating medical marijuana dispensaries immediately – and it’s a hell of a lot more straightforward than in Vancouver.
Mayor Patricia Heintzman told Daily Hive the District wanted to get out ahead of the situation in Vancouver.
“Vancouver’s trying to figure things out, they were the first ones,” she said. “There’s going to be a natural migration to outlying areas, so we’d rather be prepared for that. It’s easier to set the regulations up beforehand than to close down places.”
Squamish’s new rules means that like Vancouver, pot shops must be at least 300 metres from schools, community centres and other pot shops.
“We’re not a huge city… We don’t expect a massive proliferation,” said Heintzman. “Once you put 300m between them you limit it.”
But unlike Vancouver, where pot shops must go through a three stage application, pot shops in Squamish can simply apply for a business licence straight away.
And it’s cheaper too. In Vancouver, pot shops applying for a business licence must pay $30,000 for retail stores or $1000 for compassion clubs.
In Squamish, a pot shop business licence only costs $5,000. And so long as the applicants aren’t constructing a new building for the business, that’s all they need to do.
“We took the approach that these businesses are going to be a little bit more for us to manage, just in terms of our staff time,” said Heintzman. “But at the same time… we can’t require more than what we think is a legitimate cost.”
Squamish currently has three medical marijuana dispensaries and Heintzman says the District has so far received three applications for business licences.
However, she couldn’t confirm whether those applications had come from the same three existing pot shops. Daily Hive is reaching out to the Squamish dispensaries for comment.
Meanwhile, Heintzman says they’re all looking to the federal government to “show some leadership” on the issue and legalize marijuana.
Trudeau has promised he will introduce legislation to legalize pot next year; in the meantime, several court battles have found patients do have a right to medical marijuana.
“We realize that it’s not technically legal, we absolutely understand that,” said Heintzman.
“But in that vacuum between the existing federal policy and what the courts are saying, it creates this limboland for dispensaries.”
Heintzman estimates the first Squamish dispensaries will be granted business licences in a couple of weeks, provided they meet requirements.