Vancouver has issued its thirteenth medical cannabis retail business licence to Farm Dispensary at 369 Columbia St.
Established in 2015, Farm operates on the edge of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and has a focus on harm reduction and supplying cannabis products to some of the neighbourhood's most vulnerable residents, while using revenue to finance community programs.
For example, once a month staff and volunteers take evening shifts to do community outreach in the DTES, including helping administer naloxone and other basic first responder tools.
“We are doing our very best to provide support for our vulnerable community members and the hard working paramedics amidst this crisis,” says an article on the company's website. “ In addition, FARM always has naloxone on site and staff are trained to act in case of overdose.”
Vancouver began its licensing process in 2015 and had given unlicensed dispensaries until the end of April of this year to close. 176 originally applied for a licence. The vast majority failed based on the city’s 300 m zoning regulations. City Councillor Kerry Jang, the lead voice on the city’s Medical Marijuana Related Use licensing program, says the program could take several years. He has also said he expects only about 15-20 applicants will ultimately get a business licence.
The city has since admitted it has over one million dollars in unpaid fines to unlicensed dispensaries, and has issued 53 injunctions against unlicensed dispensaries to try and force their closure. The first injunction is expected in court some time next year.
MMRU applicants must pass three stages of review: first, a conditional permit is issued after the business passes zoning, then a development permit is issued prior to the third and final stage of receiving a business licence. Dispensaries pay a $30,000 per year fee to the city, while compassion clubs pay a $1,000 fee. As of today, the city lists 28 businesses at the development permit stage and another 15 at conditional permit.
Under Vancouver’s MMRU rules, compassion clubs must be registered under the Society Act, must be a member of the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries (CAMCD), must provide additional, non-cannabis related medical services such as Reiki, nutritional counselling, traditional Chinese medicine, or massage, all via registered practitioners, and these services must be provided for at least 60% of the time that the compassion club is open for business.
The City of Vancouver says they intend to keep moving forward with their dispensary licensing program while the province sorts out rules for retail recreational cannabis stores.
A representative for the city says Vancouver has no intentions of pausing their Medical Marijuana Related Use (MMRU) licensing program, saying they are still waiting to hear from the province on what cannabis distribution will look like in BC.
“Until the provincial government teams are in a position to reach out to the City and work on developing a distribution framework, our current regulatory framework is in place,” says Jag Sandhu, a communications coordinator for the city.