Fifteenth Board of Variance hearing for Vancouver dispensaries

The 15th Board of Variance hearing ended with one approval, one denial, one withdrawal and two adjournments to future dates

The Fifteenth Board of Variance hearing for Vancouver’s dispensary licensing program took place tonight, with one approval, one denial, one withdrawal and two adjournments to future dates.

The Board is currently made up of Gilbert Tan – Board Chair, Louis Ng – Board Secretary and FOI Officer, and Board Members Jag Dhillon and Namtez Sohal. The city was represented this week by Mr. Lee, Project Coordinator at the City of Vancouver. Ng is a non-voting member.

First up for the night was Erbachay Health Centers at 8425 Granville St (License #DE419471). Erbachay’s license had been rejected for being 219 m away from a nearby school. The business was represented by the owner, Darcy Delainey.

Delainey argued that they should receive a variance because Erbachay was better than other dispensaries, and that south Vancouver is underserved. They argued they would be harmed by having to move because this area needs them. The nearest licensed dispensary is over 4 km away. However, numerous other dispensaries are within 300 m of the business, some just a few minute walk, including 8486 Granville, 8484 Granville Street, 8079 Granville and 8455 Granville, to name a few. A Library is across the street from the location, but not included in the distance concerns. 

Numerous patients who use the dispensary also spoke out about how medical marijuana has helped them. Delainey noted that he felt there were two kinds of dispensaries in Vancouver; “Those who have been selling for many years and only care about moving as much product as possible,” and those who came from other industries, like him, and understand the importance of the user experience.

Some of those who identified as clients or staff of Erbachay’s said they felt other dispensaries were akin to ‘crack dens’ and ‘drug pushers’ in their expression of appreciation for Erbachay as an alternative.

After nearly 90 minutes of testimony and some questions and discussion, the board voted 3-1 to award the variance. Dhillon in favour, Tang against, Sohal in favour, Tan in favour.

At one point in the hearing, Delainey stated that they would lose their lease unless they received a variance. Erbachay recently posted a letter to their website, dated Sept 16, saying their landlord was not renewing their lease, which was up for renewel in October 2016, and they would be moving all their business to online mail order. It also stated the city had been issuing daily fines which they have been fighting.

After a short break, the board next heard Vancity Weed Dispensary Inc. at 1183 Granville St. (DE419485), represented by Ian Dawkins. Mr Lee, representing the city, said the business is within 150 m of 5 different locations (schools, community centre, other dispensaries). Dawkins argued there were only three, and that the density of the neighbourhood necessitated a distance less than the city’s mandated 300 m rule.

Dhillon stated that three main refusal points are good enough for him without adding others, and he, along with the rest of the board voted to deny.

Next up for the evening was another Vancity Weed location, this time at 288 East 8th Avenue (DE419484), formerly 63 Kingsway. This location was withdrawn. The final two applications of the evening ( 2223 Commercial Drive Canna Clinic Medicinal Society-E419486, and 987 Granville Street Pacific Educational Apparels Society-DE419440) were both granted adjournments to future dates.

The next Board of Variance hearing will be on Nov. 16.

Notes on the scene from Jamie Shaw.

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