Victoria city council moves forward with dispensary regulations

Council unanimously approves city report on regulations for Medical Marijuana Related Business, will give final vote in June.

Victoria city council unanimously voted today to approve of the Committee of the Whole Report for regulations for Medical Marijuana Related Business presented to them by city staff, with conditions. In June the proposed bylaws will go to council again for a final vote.

The conditions call for amendments including adding licensed day cares to the 200 m zoning rule in proximity to schools and community centres, as well as a ban on all advertising.

Victoria dispensaries

The bylaws work by calling for the ban of all medical marijuana businesses within the city, and then each dispensary can apply for a variance to that bylaw.

This process is different than Vancouver's approach, which created a zone where the city can then license dispensaries. The zoning recommendations are also not binding in the way Vancouver's are. Each applicant will be considered on an individual basis, rather than en-masse, with community input taken into account. This is similar to the process some failed licenses in Vancouver face via the city's Board of Variance.

On site consumption (smoking, vaporizing, etc) is also banned, but businesses can apply for a variance to that, as well.

Unlike Vancouver, Victoria's proposed bylaws don't ban the sale of edibles, although they also do not specifically allow them. The city argued it is not their jurisdiction to regulate the products inside the business, only the business itself. Interestingly, council passed a separate motion where the mayor will write to the provincial health officer directing them to regulate the safety, quality and medicinal properties of medical cannabis edibles within the city of Victoria.

If passed in June, the bylaws could go into effect immediately. There are currently 35 medical marijuana dispensaries in Victoria.

Dieter MacPherson, the president of the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries (CAMCD), says he's very happy with the city's proposed regulations, and that they represent a much more practical solution than Vancouver's. One of the application requirements for Vancouver dispensaries to get a license is to be a member of CAMCD, adhering to the organization's rules and regulations. 

"The city of Victoria seems to have done a much better job of looking at their jurisdiction, where it lies, and also in the consultation process with all stakeholders. It's a glaring difference between Victoria and Vancouver."

MacPherson is also the Executive Director of the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club, the oldest dispensary in Victoria, in their current location for 17 years.

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