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Time to regulate Vancouver pot businesses, says city hall -

by papapuff » Mon Jun 12, 2017 8:45 am

Vancouver pot shop regulations yield mixed results after two years

There are 57 non-compliant dispensaries and 10 that have completed the licencing process, according to the city

By: Wanyee Li Metro Published on Mon Jun 12 2017

It’s been almost two years since Vancouver city councillors adopted new pot-shop regulations, but after dishing out more than 1,600 tickets, the city is still dealing with 57 marijuana retail businesses that are not abiding by the rules.

That doesn’t include the 38 dispensaries or compassion clubs that don’t have licences but are exempted from ticketing because they say they are going to put an application together, said Kathryn Holm, head of licensing at the City of Vancouver.

“[If] shops have not been fully compliant but they are working towards it, we have exempted them from enforcement.”

But the city’s patience for those businesses is waning and the licensing office may begin ticketing them too.

“We’re finding now that several of the shops in that stream are not actively working toward compliance,” Holm explained.

Ten marijuana retail businesses have completed the city’s licensing process but 13 new pot shops have opened since the city adopted its regulatory framework for dispensaries, she said.

One long-time dispensary owner says the process is too strict.

“There are only 10 dispensaries licenced in the city. That’s not a very big number considering how much time and effort has gone into this,” said Dana Larsen, director of the non-profit, The Vancouver Dispensary Society.

Neither of his dispensaries have a business licence.

Bylaw officers started slapping $250 fines on pot shops operating without a licence in June 2015. Back then, there were about 80 marijuana-retail businesses in the city, according to Holm.

Bylaw officers generally fine a non-compliant dispensary once a week, she confirmed.

The city upped the fine to $1,000 in December 2016. A licence for medical marijuana dispensaries costs $30,000 and a licence for compassion clubs costs $1,000.

Larsen has been hit with numerous fines for his two businesses, called The Dispensary.

“I’m trying to not pay them because I think it’s a bizarre process,” he said.

One of his locations, at 1180 Thurlow St., was on its way to getting a licence until the Board of Variance called for another appeal hearing this November, he said. The other location, at 880 East Hastings St., is unlikely to receive a licence because it is located in an area zoned for manufacturing, he explained.

It’s been an arduous process, but one Larsen prefers to the alternative.

“I would rather see this heavily flawed licensing process than endless raids.”

Larsen maintains he doesn’t plan to close up shop anytime soon.

“My intent is to keep my dispensaries open as long as possible using every legal method available but in a worst-case scenario the city can win those type of battles if they’re willing to push hard enough,” he said.

“We’ll do what we can.”

The city has filed 27 injunctions in an attempt to force unlicensed dispensaries to close down but none of those cases have been heard in court yet, according to Holm.

The City of Vancouver has received 52 complaints about pot shops through its 311 line in 2017 so far.

The federal government has announced it will legalize marijuana by Canada Day 2018.
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by papapuff » Tue Jun 20, 2017 5:55 pm

North Shore News

Marine Drive pot shop ordered shuttered

Complaints prompt District of North Vancouver to ask court for injunction

Jane Seyd / North Shore News

JUNE 20, 2017

A marijuana shop that opened its doors illegally in the District of North Vancouver last fall has been forced to close its doors after the municipality took the case to B.C. Supreme Court.

A judge issued an injunction at the end of May ordering the pot shop run by the Green Tree Dispensary Society to shutter its storefront at 1370 Marine Dr. and pay back the district $4,000 in legal costs.

The pot shop, which opened its doors last fall, is the first attempt by a marijuana shop to open up in the municipality since council put the kibosh on a pot shop in Deep Cove several years ago.

The storefront opened under the name Green Tree Medical Dispensary in rented space in September of last year.

Soon after, the pot shop was advertising its wares like a “Babba Kush” Indica strain on Facebook with the description “Great for crushing stress while coercing happy thoughts into the brain for a great good mood feeling. 22 % THC ... .”

Marijuana dispensaries are banned in the municipality and Green Tree did not apply for a business licence, said chief bylaw officer Carol Walker.

But district staff were soon hearing about the storefront from neighbouring business owners including a lymphedema clinic and a local chiropractor, who reported “marijuana smoking and other undesirable activities by customers” outside the store.

Business owners told bylaw officers they had tried complaining to Randall Gordon Leong, director of Tai Sing Properties Ltd., the company which owns the building, but got nowhere.

When bylaw officers visited the storefront in the fall they found products on display included “dried marijuana, rolling papers, glass pipes, marijuana candy and baked goods and marijuana oils.”

Bylaw officers told store staff the pot shop wasn’t allowed under local zoning bylaws and ordered it to close, but the store stayed open.

Leong was also unco-operative when contacted by district staff, according to court documents, telling them the tenant signed a three-year lease and was paying $3,300 a month (or $23 per square foot) in rent.

Leong told bylaw officers the owner of the store operates 30 retail pot shops across B.C. and Ontario. According to court documents before he signed the lease he visited another store that the owner was involved in in the City of North Vancouver and found it “tidy and well run.”

Leong also told bylaw officers since the federal government will soon be making marijuana legal he wasn’t going to take any further action against his tenant.

The municipality filed a lawsuit in November against the Green Tree Dispensary Society and Justin Liu of West Vancouver, one of the directors at the time, who Leong had described as the owner of the store, asking for an injunction as the pot shop was violating local bylaws.

Shortly before the judge issued a ruling in the case on May 23, the store was still advertising itself to customers on Facebook, telling them to “Come by and check out our grinders, bongs, pipes and more over the long weekend!”

By May 23, however, the pot shop had been ordered closed.

It isn’t the first time the Green Tree Dispensary Society has run afoul of local authorities. Pot shops have been closed after fights with municipalities and the RCMP in both Langford and Ottawa.

Marijuana storefronts in the City of North Vancouver have also been operating in a legal grey area. Last month, city council revealed it had opted to deny business licences to two pot shops.

Walker said neighbouring businesses on Marine Drive are pleased that the marijuana dispensary has been closed, adding the municipality will continue to take action against pot shops that open illegally.

“The district is closely following the announcements of the government of Canada. As with all changing federal and provincial laws, the district will evaluate these changes and consider the implications for district bylaws,” she said.
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by papapuff » Mon Jun 26, 2017 10:42 am

June 26, 2017 7:47 am

The City of Vancouver has collected only 14% of illegal pot shop fines

By Kyle Benning
Reporter CKNW

The City of Vancouver has fined marijuana dispensaries nearly one million dollars since they started penalizing businesses without a permit.

But not much has been collected.

Vancouver bylaw officers are 10 infractions away from breaking the million dollar barrier since fines came into play a little over a year ago.

The City says it has collected about $140,000, just over 14 per cent of the grand total.

From the beginning of April to last Tuesday, officers handed out just over 400 tickets to pot shops, while only collecting fees from 19 over the same period.

There are approximately 60 dispensaries that could be written up, but about two dozen have been given court injunctions and do not receive tickets.

Vancouver City Councillors say the reason so few fines have been collected is because of a backlog in courtrooms.

Vision Vancouver’s Kerry Jang says many of the injunctions were filed a year ago and have yet to be presented in front of a judge.

“We’ve done everything we can as a city, and it’s up to the courts now to make a decision. But in the meantime, we will continue to collect the evidence to strengthen our case that these shops are knowingly and deliberately breaking city bylaws.”

Green Councillor Adriane Carr says she wants the city to keep pressure on business owners, even if cannabis is legalized by the federal Liberals.

“They know what the rules are, and so I do believe that we should be pursuing those fines. Whether the court or not is not the fault of the city, but we will need to pursue them. We will continue to pursue them until those fines are paid.”

Vancouver city staff have refused to comment.
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by papapuff » Fri Jun 30, 2017 12:11 pm

Cannabis Day to be held Saturday next to Pacific Central Station

Published on: June 30, 2017

Marijuana advocates and enthusiasts will celebrate Cannabis Day in Thornton Park, next to Pacific Central Station, on Saturday despite objections from the Vancouver park board.

The event features a large Marijuana Farmers Market where vendors sell marijuana products and pot-infused edibles.

The park board had urged organizers to seek a more suitable site than the heavily used park.

The annual July 1 pot protest, which in past years has been held outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, will operate without a permit.

“As with any unpermitted event or protest, the priority of the Park Board and the City is the health and safety of all participants and the general public. On the day of the event, Park Rangers will monitor Thornton Park along with the many other events taking place in parks on Canada Day. Vancouver Police officers will be on-site to manage traffic and keep the peace,” the park board said in a statement.

Cannabis Culture, the event organizers, say Cannabis Day will take place on the south side of Thornton Park between noon and 8 p.m.
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by papapuff » Fri Jun 30, 2017 1:13 pm

After park board says it won't issue permits for cannabis events, city says Cannabis Day will go on as planned

by Amanda Siebert on June 30th, 2017

This morning, the City of Vancouver sent out a news release notifying media that Cannabis Day will go ahead at Thornton Park, despite that fact that organizers have not been issued a permit.

"There's obviously some details that have been left out there," Dana Larsen of Sensible B.C. told the Straight after hearing about the release.

"We didn't apply for a permit because we're not allowed to."

The release states that organizers of the annual Cannabis Day protest "are going ahead with a rally at Thornton Park this Saturday despite objections from the Vancouver Park Board to seek a more suitable site than a park which is heavily used and adjacent to Pacific Central Station."

Larsen explained that when event organizers behind the annual 4/20 event at Sunset Beach applied for a permit, the park board denied it, and proceeded to ban all future marijuana-related events from applying for permits on any Vancouver park board properties.

In 2016, Cannabis Day sponsors (Cannabis Culture and Sensible B.C.) hosted the event on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery, where it had taken place for 22 years in a row.

"Last year, we had a conflict with the World Cannabis group where they hijacked our event and set up early," said Larsen.

After the incident with the rogue group, Larsen promptly applied for a permit at the VAG for July 1, 2017.

"I applied in mid-July last year, and they didn't answer me for nearly 11 months," Larsen said.

"A city engineer called me and told me, 'We've decided we're going to use the art gallery for a youth sports day event', but because they hadn't answered us until late May, we assumed we'd be using the art gallery."

Larsen wasn't interested in competing with the event, and decided Thornton Park would be a better option—but because the city requires more lead time to consider event permits, organizers could not apply for one.

"There is no mechanism for us to apply because they won't even hear an application, otherwise we would have,” he said.

Larsen added that organizers are doing everything they can to protect the grounds, and with good weather, there shouldn't be any issues with the grass. A clean-up crew has also been organized.

As for the celebration, Larsen said cannabis enthusiasts can expect booths, live music from local DJs, and more space to relax than what was available at the art gallery.

"I think Thornton Park is a better space for it, because it's highly accessible, there's more shade—sometimes we had issues with heat stroke at the gallery—and there aren't residences nearby, the surrounding area is purely commercial."

Vendors aren't required to sign up or pay a fee to participate. Space at the park for booths will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The event is expected to attract a few thousand people, certainly less than the 30,000 who attended 4/20. Cannabis Day begins at noon and winds down around 8 p.m.
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by papapuff » Wed Jul 12, 2017 12:49 pm

Downtown Eastside residents to call on city to deny marijuana dispensary linked to Sahota family

by Travis Lupick on July 12th, 2017

A group of Downtown Eastside residents is taking an unusually intense interest in marijuana-storefront application that’s up for review today (July 12).

The dispensary in question is called Herban Legends and located at 3028 Arbutus Street, near the intersection of West 14th Street.

The Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative is a group of mostly low-income residents who live in the neighbourhood’s shoddy hotels. It has scheduled a news conference to occur at Vancouver City Hall just before the dispensary is to appear before the board of variance for a review of its application to run a marijuana-related businesses.

Why is the Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative, which was recently in the news for protests related to the Balmoral Hotel, interfering in the business of a marijuana dispensary on Vancouver’s West Side?

“A hint: the city is soft on slumlords but we are not!” reads a July 12 media release. “Come and find out more at a media conference on the steps of City Hall.”

The applicant behind Herban Legends is Lachman Singh. According to a statement provided to the Straight, he is in reality only an employee, and the dispensary’s owners and operators are two brothers belonging to the Sahota family.

The statement was allegedly written by Ajantha Dharmapala. In it, he describes himself as a former manager of the Balmoral Hotel and assistant to the controller of the Sahotas' property-management company.

The Sahota family is well known in the Downtown Eastside because it owns several of the neighbourhood’s larger private hotels, including the Regent, Cobalt, Astoria, and Balmoral, the latter of which was declared structurally unsound. (On June 12, the Balmoral was evacuated after some 200 residents were given just one week to find new places to live.)

At the news conference scheduled for 3:30 p.m. today, members of the Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative are expected to argue that the City of Vancouver should not allow the Sahota family to operate a marijuana-related business.
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by papapuff » Thu Jul 13, 2017 11:57 am

Vancouver rejects marijuana dispensary application from Downtown Eastside landlord

VANCOUVER — The Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, Jul. 12, 2017

The City of Vancouver has rejected a marijuana dispensary application from a company linked to a family that owns several rundown single-room hotels in the Downtown Eastside.

Two dozen housing activists protested a hearing Wednesday afternoon related to Herban Legends, a proposed dispensary overseen by a manager of one of the Sahota family’s five single-room occupancy hotels. Three of the Sahota’s hotels are located in the Downtown Eastside, including the Balmoral, which was ordered evacuated by the city last month amid concerns the building was structurally unsound.

The hearing was at the city’s independent board of variance, which can grant people exemptions from zoning bylaws. The dispensary application was initially denied because the proposed location is closer than the allowable 300 metres from a nearby kindergarten.

Speaker after speaker urged the board to reject the appeal because of the track record of the Sahota family’s property management.

“If the developers have money to invest [in a dispensary], why aren’t they fixing up those hotels?,” said Doug Bruce, who lives near the proposed pot shop on the city’s west side. “They shouldn’t be charging off in other directions.”

Two years ago, the City of Vancouver introduced a system to licence and regulate dispensaries, even though the shops remain illegal under federal law. The system includes licensing fees of up to $30,000 and imposes conditions that include limits on how close dispensaries can be to schools, community centres and other cannabis shops.

In response to Herban Legends’s application, the board unanimously denied the appeal to continue the licensing process. Despite the protest outside and elevated security at the hearing, the five board members said it was irrelevant whether the Sahotas were behind the application, only that the location was too close to the school.

The aspiring dispensary business is owned by a numbered company whose director is the current manager of the Astoria Hotel. Before and after the hearing, the man refused to answer any questions about his role in the dispensary application.

The Sahotas have gone back and forth with the city for years over maintenance and safety concerns at their SROs, which serve as housing for many of the Downtown Eastside’s poorest residents. Last month, about 140 tenants of the Balmoral Hotel were ordered to leave after the city concluded the building was unsafe to occupy and must be repaired to ensure it doesn’t collapse.

Tenants of the Balmoral and another hotel, the Regent, have also filed proposed class-action lawsuits against the family.

The Sahotas have not commented publicly about the alleged problems at the Balmoral or their other single-room hotels.

Kirk Tousaw, a prominent cannabis lawyer who represented the applicant in their appeal, said the hearing was not the forum “in which the board can or should debate the very serious issues of single-room occupancy housing and the city’s response to that.”

“I don’t think many of the comments were relevant to the issues,” he said of the dozen or so speakers from across the city.

Mr. Tousaw argued that the school in question was a daycare that was not listed as a school on the city or Vancouver School Board’s website. He said the students at the daycare were five years old or younger and had no concept of what a dispensary is, plus they are always accompanied by at least two adults whenever they are taken off the grounds during the day.

Board members said the kindergarten in question meets the bylaw’s definition of a school and, as such, must be kept further away from any pot shops.

Vancouver is among several cities in Canada that have decided to provide licences to illegal marijuana dispensaries ahead of the federal government’s plan to legalize the drug for recreational use next year. The federal government plans to leave it to provinces to figure out where legal marijuana will be sold, and politicians in some parts of the country have been pushing for pot to be sold through liquor stores or pharmacies instead of dispensaries.

Vancouver has so far given nine pot shops business licences and is processing another two dozen or so applications of stores that are either far enough away from schools and community centres or have been granted variances by the independent board.

Another 60 or so have stayed open illegally and are subject to daily fines from the city after failing to receive a licence .

Meanwhile, housing and legal advocates say the city has been lax in issuing fines to SRO owners such as the Sahotas under its standards and maintenance bylaw, allowing landlords to let their buildings slide into disrepair.

The city prosecutor’s office is considering up to 64 bylaw charges against the Sahotas for the Balmoral.

Across Vancouver, there were $6,800 in penalties issued under the bylaw in 2014 and about $15,000 in 2015, city spokesman Jag Sandhu said.

A breakdown of those penalties was not made available to The Globe and Mail. The Balmoral has an assessed property value of about $10-million.
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by papapuff » Fri Jul 14, 2017 11:19 am

Vancouver Sun

Daphne Bramham: No pot shop for slum landlords, but city needs to do more

Published on: July 13, 2017

The audacity of the Sahota family is breathtaking. Its patriarchs are notorious slum landlords, who wanted to branch out and run a cannabis shop in the heart of Vancouver’s west side.

Their licence application was rejected Wednesday as the board of variance refused to bend on the prohibition on pot shops within 300 metres of schools.

The proposed Herban Legends was 260 metres away from one of the city’s most prestigious private kindergartens, York House Little School.

You can’t blame the Sahotas for trying.

If they’ve come to believe that they are above the law, it’s because the city and provincial governments have been complicit.

On their way to building up a $130-million real-estate portfolio that consists of four, single-room-occupancy hotels, the Sahotas have pretty much done whatever they liked and suffered no real consequences for decades.

If we can thank them for anything, it’s that the Sahotas’ actions have pretty consistently highlighted — depending on your perspective — either the city’s impotence to enforce the laws or its unwillingness to do so.

In June, the city finally evacuated residents from the Sahota-owned Balmoral Hotel because not only were the conditions unthinkably bad, the 105-year-old building was structurally unsound. At that point, the landlords had citations for 183 outstanding building deficiencies and 150 violations.

There’s also a class-action suit in the B.C. Court of Appeal that involves another Sahota-owned building, the Regent Hotel.

When it comes to slum landlords, the city says it lacks the enforcement tools it needs. The province, so far, hasn’t been willing to give municipalities those powers.

And then, there’s cannabis.

For two decades, Vancouver politicians didn’t do anything about a proliferation of pot shops. Vancouver police targeted street sellers and traffickers, but left the shops alone even though the marijuana, various extracted oils and edibles on sale came from illegal grow-ops.

The Sahotas incorporated Sunshine Coast Cannabis Farms Inc. in 2015, three years after Sechelt’s then-mayor bragged about turning his community into the pot capital of Canada after drafting a bylaw to allow large-scale commercial grow-ops in industrial and agricultural areas.

It’s not clear whether the Sahotas’ company ever set up a grow-op or produced cannabis. But it is not in good standing and is in the process of being dissolved.

Only a few months after Sunshine Coast Cannabis was incorporated, Vancouver’s then-city manager, Penny Ballem, raised the alarm about the close to 100 illegal pot shops in Vancouver and her concerns about keeping cannabis away from children.

Using its power to license businesses, the city passed a bylaw prohibiting any shops within 300 metres of a school, banning anyone under 18 from entering the shops and prohibiting the sale of edibles and candies that might be more appealing to children.

In 2016, the city’s board of variance began hearing the first of 62 appeals from existing pot-shop operators who had been denied business licences. At its first meeting, the members rejected applications from within the 300-metre limit — as they did on Wednesday with the Sahota application.

The mere presence of the Sahotas at City Hall attracted about two dozen protesters from the Downtown Eastside who were incredulous that an application would even be considered given their terrible record of ignoring city bylaws and regulations.

But two-thirds of Vancouver’s cannabis shops continue to flout the city’s bylaw. Of the 94 operating, 63 are either being ticketed daily or have injunctions filed against them.

Ironically, had the Sahotas simply opened their shop, they would have found be in the company of others bent on frustrating the efforts of civic politicians to regulate it.

Of course, the impetus to ignore City Hall’s bylaw is the pending legalization of marijuana that the federal government has promised for July 1, 2018, which holds the prospect of windfall profits for those already open for business.

The Sahotas seem to embody the ‘broken windows’ theory articulated by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in a 1982 article in Atlantic Monthly.

The theory is that bad behaviour begets bad behaviour even if it starts out with something as small as a broken window. And, if it’s not dealt with immediately, more windows are broken and eventually disorder spirals out of control.

Vancouver needs to rein this in.

If civic leaders need more tools to deal with scofflaws, then they must do a better job of articulating what they need both for the sake of citizens and for senior levels of government.

Because so far, Mayor Gregor Robertson and councillors have done little beyond expressing dismay at what’s happening and attempting to shift the blame to others.
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by papapuff » Tue Aug 01, 2017 3:33 pm

July 30, 2017

City of Vancouver owed almost $1M in illegal pot shop fines

By Kyle Benning
Reporter CKNW

The City of Vancouver has handed out nearly 2,000 tickets to marijuana dispensaries operating without a business licence, for a combined bill of $1.1 million.

Only 400 tickets have been paid, which means the city has only received $175,750 from the million-dollar bill.

Over the last five weeks, the city also handed down 26 court injunctions to pot shops. Prior to that, they handed down another 27, bringing the total of injunctions to 53.

However, once a store received an injunction, the city can no longer hand out tickets and collect money from those dispensaries.

As of the end of July, none of the injunctions have made it to a courtroom.

There are only 12 dispensaries left in the city that can be subject to tickets from bylaw officers.

In Dec. 2016, the city increased the ticket fine from $250 to $1,000.
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by papapuff » Fri Aug 11, 2017 10:35 am

The Province

Dan Fumano: Vancouver pot dispensary patient data breach highlights regulatory haze

(Vancouver Sun)
Published: August 10, 2017
Updated: August 11, 2017

Sensitive patient data supplied to a Vancouver cannabis dispensary has been either mishandled or — according to the shop’s owner — stolen, a situation again highlighting the cloud of confusion over the regulation of retail pot.

Most people in stereotypically weed-friendly Vancouver, it seems, don’t have a problem with dispensaries. A Nanos poll of Vancouverites last year found only 14 per cent supported banning medical dispensaries.

But the city’s decision to take the lead in Canada by licensing a still-illegal industry has contributed to a regulatory haze where many in Vancouver — including cannabis users and non-consumers alike, and even those involved in the weed business — have expressed confusion about the state of affairs while Canadians await federal legislation expected to legalize non-medicinal marijuana next year.

A tipster recently contacted Postmedia to say he’d found a computer memory card in a Vancouver alley, containing more than 1,000 photos of people taken inside a west-side dispensary, as well as digital copies of private medical documents. Postmedia has reviewed the contents of the memory card to confirm its contents, but is not identifying the dispensary, because it was not immediately possible to confirm how the disk was obtained. The tipster who provided the disk said he was unsure if it ended up in the alley due to negligence or “some criminal act that led to the memory card being stolen or otherwise taken from the dispensary.”

Thursday, after Postmedia told the dispensary’s owner of the data leak, he immediately reported it to the Vancouver Police.

The shop owner said all patient information is stored on a secure, internal system, and “the only way someone would be able to get this information is stealing it from us. … I hope we can get to the bottom of who actually stole it.”

Whether a case of negligence or theft, it raises questions about the oversight of a multi-million dollar business that’s above-the-counter in Vancouver, but against the law as far as Ottawa’s concerned.

The people’s photos on the disk, which appear to have been taken for membership cards or some similar purpose, show a cross-section of hundreds of apparent weed consumers, men and women who appear to range in age from their early 20s through middle age to several senior citizens. Some are dressed casually, while others are in more formal office attire.

The disk also included photos of medical documents, including copies of prescriptions and pill bottle labels for drugs commonly prescribed to treat a range of physical and mental conditions, including painful muscle spasms, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, bowel conditions and heart disorders. Patients’ name were legible on each of those photos of documents, and some include other identifying information.

The incident follows a different breach last year originating with another Vancouver dispensary, one that led to an investigation by B.C.’s privacy watchdog and a public warning from Health Canada. In October, Postmedia reported that sensitive patient data had been publicly viewable through the website of an East Van dispensary called the Vancouver Pain Management Society.

Breaches of sensitive information have happened before medical labs, hospitals and government agencies in Canada.

But one thing differentiating dispensary cases is these are businesses to whom customers entrust sensitive data, but instead of being regulated by senior levels of government, Ottawa actively discourage people from trusting them.

So it raises the question of who holds dispensaries accountable if they are negligent with medical data.

The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for B.C. investigated last year’s breach. Reached this week, an office spokeswoman said the investigation had closed, but the office “does not disclose the results of our investigations and therefore cannot comment further.”

Asked whether the office could issue sanctions or discipline organizations found to be breaching privacy rules, spokeswoman Jane Zatylny said “the Commissioner can order an organization to stop disclosing the information.”

However, it was not clear whether the office could discipline an organization found to be negligent in mishandling private information.

Last year’s dispensary breach (which, like this week’s leak, was brought to the attention of Postmedia by a tipster) prompted Health Canada to issue a statement “to reiterate that all dispensaries selling cannabis are illegal (and) function outside of Health Canada’s regulatory framework. … As such, it would be inappropriate for Health Canada to comment on the record-keeping and management practices of these illegal entities.”

Responding to this week’s leak, a Health Canada spokesman said last year’s statement “still applies.”

Similarly, a City of Vancouver spokesman said this week the city’s position hasn’t changed since last October’s statement, which said: “Oversight on patient data would not fall under the jurisdiction of the city (similar to health clinics and hospitals in the city) and so it is not referred to in our bylaws.”

But, it could be argued that the city’s decision to create a licensing structure for illegal businesses has helped give them a veneer of legitimacy.

The two Vancouver dispensaries involved in the recent data breaches are both working their way through the city’s licensing program: last year, city hall reportedly issued Vancouver Pain Management Society its development permit (the last stage in the process before the business licence) the month after Postmedia first reported its data breach.

In the 10 months since then, different levels of government have stuck to their positions that dispensary data oversight isn’t their responsibility. And a cloudy situation’s not getting any clearer.
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by papapuff » Tue Aug 15, 2017 4:14 pm

Vancouver Sun

Dan Fumano: Vancouver passes $1 million mark of unpaid tickets in bid to regulate rogue pot shops

Published on: August 15, 2017

Like property prices and many citizens of Vancouver, the value of unpaid tickets issued to the city’s rogue pot shops is high and keeps getting higher.

Recently, the value of unpaid dispensary tickets passed the $1 million mark.

While Vancouver continues to crack down on scofflaw dispensaries, the latest numbers show they’re having limited success: as of this week, 64 dispensaries were operating without a licence, compared to 31 working within the city’s licensing system, while the city had issued 2,024 tickets to dispensaries with only 406 tickets (or 20 per cent) paid.

And of the $1.2 million worth of tickets issued by the City of Vancouver to unlicensed illegal dispensaries in the last 15 months, the city had collected only $160,000 as of last week, according to numbers provided by the city, while $1.04 million remained unpaid.

The City of Vancouver was not able to provide data for collection rates on other kinds of city-issued bylaw infraction tickets for comparison, but the city’s 2017 Budget and Five-Year Financial Plan reported that between 2012 and 2015, the city issued an average of 350,385 parking tickets per year, with an average of 86 per cent of those tickets paid.

With Vancouver leading the way with the country’s first municipal pot sales licensing regime, other municipalities are also moving to regulate hundreds of pot storefronts sprouting up across the country in recent years, though the stores remain illegal under federal law regardless of whether they have a municipal licence. Some cities have been far less hospitable to dispensaries, including Toronto, where police have shown Vancouver-based chains like Cannabis Culture and Canna Clinic how unwelcome they are with large-scale raids.

Canada’s federal government is working on a plan for the legalization of non-medicinal pot, expected to be introduced next year.

Vancouver Coun. Kerry Jang, Vision Vancouver’s point person on pot, said: “The federal government proposals have clearly followed our lead on this, as have other cities, because it was a very practical, health-based approach.”

But has Vancouver’s pioneering approach to dispensaries (of which most Vancouverites approve) provided a helpful example for the rest of the country? Or has it opened a confusing can of legal worms and passed it along? Last week, as the City of Hamilton, Ont. sought to shut down an illegal dispensary and vapour lounge, The Hamilton Spectator reported the lounge’s owner “pointed to Vancouver’s decision to license marijuana dispensaries in that city while the federal government slowly introduces new retail and production rules for pot,” and quoted her saying: “‘Eventually we (cannabis activists) win these fights.'”

The confusion surrounding the regulation of pot shops was highlighted in an incident last week, when Postmedia reported a breach of sensitive patient data originating from a dispensary operating within Vancouver’s licensing system. Jang said last week’s leak, which followed a data breach last year from a different Vancouver-licensed dispensary, showed “why federal and provincial legislation is so key as they set standards for patient data safety.” But Health Canada said, as they have before, that “all dispensaries selling cannabis are illegal … It would be inappropriate for Health Canada to comment on the record-keeping and management practices of these illegal entities.

Since Vancouver ordered unlicensed dispensaries to shut down in April of last year, 42 have closed or stopped selling pot, but another 64 still flout the city’s bylaws and operate outside its licensing system.

Vancouver has filed 53 injunctions against dispensaries operating without business licenses or zoning approval, trying to force their closure, said the city’s chief license inspector Kathryn Holm, adding: “We are waiting to have (injunction hearings) scheduled, but unfortunately that’s something we don’t directly control. We are able to file and then request access to the courts, and we are just waiting to obtain that access.”

Despite Vancouver’s lack of success collecting fines and the dozens of scofflaws still operating, Jang said the city’s approach will succeed eventually, and is being delayed by “unusual” court delays.

If a judge grants the injunctions, the dispensaries could be ordered to shut down, Jang said, or risk a charge of contempt of court “at their own peril.”

None of the dispensary injunctions have been assigned a court date yet, Jang said, despite some being filed more than a year ago. Meanwhile, injunctions related to other matters have been heard more quickly, Jang said, adding: “What’s really unusual about this is it’s only been the pot dispensary ones that have been held up.”

In an emailed statement, B.C.’s Ministry of the Attorney General said the scheduling of civil matters, including injunction hearings, is the responsibility of The Office of the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court and the Chief Justices of the Superior Courts, and is done “independently of government.”

Vancouver’s bylaw inspectors will continue to ticket unlicensed dispensaries, Jang said, adding that the piles of unpaid fines “just provide even more evidence that they’re breaking the bylaw … But we just have to get in front of a judge.”

Jang said he hopes B.C.’s new government will make it a priority to provide resources to allow Vancouver’s injunction hearings to eventually be scheduled.

But with the federal government’s legalization expected for next July, it’s not clear which could come first.
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by papapuff » Wed Aug 16, 2017 4:07 pm

City issues business licence to Karuna Health Foundation's East Van cannabis dispensary

by Amanda Siebert on August 16th, 2017

On Monday, the City of Vancouver awarded a business licence to a dispensary operated by Karuna Health Foundation, making it the 11th licensed cannabis shop in the city.

Karuna's East Vancouver shop at 4510 Victoria Drive was granted a licence after going through the various stages of the city's application process, and is now included in the city's framework.

This comes after years of renovations to their Point Grey shop (3636 West 4th Ave), which were mandated by the city prior to the introduction of the bylaws. (In the end, the Point Grey shop's license was denied.)

The Straight spoke with Karuna's co-owner and operator, Bonnie Johnstone, about the lengthy process earlier today, and she said she's "cautiously optimistic" about the new label.

"I'm very happy that we got it. I've put my blood, sweat, and tears into this, and so has my family," she said. "Everyone's just working out the kinks."

Johnstone operates Karuna with her partner, Sacha Canow and her daughter, Alexandra.

With a focus on providing cannabis to chronically and terminally ill patients since they opened their first shop a few years ago, Johnstone said she's excited to continue offering relief to members in a way that fits into city bylaws.

"Everyone knows how we really do take it seriously—people are coming in for the medicine—so I'm very happy about it, because it's been a long haul."

When asked about plans for the Point Grey shop, Johnstone said she'd already told her employees to "buckle up for round two". One of her biggest concerns is that the regulations might change again, setting Karuna back at square one.

"We're hoping to continue with that shop, but I'm worried that that store is in jeopardy because of the discrepancies and red tape," she said.

"But, since I have a license for this one, I'm on both sides of the coin now. If they tell us to close [the Point Grey shop], I'll respect that."
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by papapuff » Wed Aug 16, 2017 6:05 pm

1st court date set for illegal Vancouver pot dispensaries

The City of Vancouver has filed 53 injunctions against pot shops and issued more than 2,000 tickets

By Rafferty Baker, CBC News Posted: Aug 16, 2017

After more than a year and 53 injunctions filed in B.C. Supreme Court, the City of Vancouver finally has a hearing date set for one case against an unlicensed marijuana dispensary.

But the injunction filed against Karuna Health Foundation — which will serve as the court's 'test case' — still won't be heard for more than a year.

"It'll be almost two years but better late than never," said Vancouver Coun. Kerry Jang, who's been frustrated by the slow court process as the city tries to enforce its relatively new marijuana dispensary bylaws.

"Sooner would have been better."

"It's because we've heard nothing from the courts, the provincial government for so long that these bad pot shop owners figure they can get away with anything they want," said Jang.

The city reports that there are currently 64 shops operating without permits — 53 of them have injunctions filed against them. But unless the court grants the injunctions, the city has no power to shut them down.

Only 11 shops have been issued a business licence, but many more have development permits and aren't currently subject to enforcement.

More than $1 million in unpaid fines

The enforcement strategy has been to issue tickets, but many of them are going unpaid.

More than 2,000 tickets have been handed out, but of the $1.2 million in fines, only $160,000 has been collected by the city.

Bylaw enforcement officers have been instructed not to continue to fine shops facing possible injunctions, but in the last week, another 20 tickets went out.

Bonnie Johnstone is one of the directors of the Karuna Health Foundation. One of their shops is among the successful dispensaries that has been granted a development permit from the city, but the other one on West Fourth Avenue is too close to a school, according to the city's bylaw.

"I don't really want to make a big war out of this, but we put everything that we had into it and it's just very upsetting that they would even consider shutting us down after all the work that we've done," said Johnstone.

"It's just really disheartening, because it's just one thing after another, code after code, permit after permit, then they changed the rules," she said, adding that her shop was one of the first to approach the city and get guidance before the current bylaw was passed.

Karuna went through the city's Board of Variance process but lost and has been repeatedly fined since then.

"It used to be $250, and then I believe it bumped up to $1,000. Yeah, so, we did pay some in good faith, and I don't know — it's just slowed down a bit," said Johnstone.

"We are in the process of paying them, because, again, I don't want a big fight with the city."

The injunction filed against Karuna will be the first to go before a judge, but with that date more than a year away, Johnstone is just hoping something shifts in her favour.

"I'm trying to positive, but it's very devastating," she said "Yes indeed."

Jang hopes that, with a scheduled injunction hearing, the city's dozens of illegal shops' days will soon be over.

"I think that now the courts have now indicated they are going to begin to hear the cases, that that will have an effect ... that people who are scofflaws will maybe begin taking the city bylaws a lot more seriously," he said.
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by papapuff » Wed Sep 13, 2017 5:35 pm

City of Vancouver issues 12th marijuana-related business licence to Cambie Street dispensary

by Amanda Siebert on September 13th, 2017

Amid grumblings toward Ontario's pot plan and federal discussions at the Standing Committee on Health in Ottawa, life seemingly goes on in Vancouver, where another dispensary has been issued a business licence.

Westcoast Medicann, located at 3178 Cambie Street, has been issued a licence after successfully meeting all city zoning requirements and obtaining a development permit.

The dispensary, which according to its website, requires that all members are licensed to consume cannabis by Health Canada before purchasing cannabis, is a retail medical marijuana-related storefront under the City's medical marijuana-related use (MMRU) bylaws.

It is the 12th dispensary in the city to receive a business licence since the implementation of the MMRU bylaws in 2015.

The shop has been operating since 2014.
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by papapuff » Thu Oct 05, 2017 12:49 pm

Mom and pop shop offers organic cannabis

posted on October 5th, 2017

(This article is sponsored by Evergreen Cannabis Society.)

The Evergreen Cannabis Society is unlike any other dispensary in Vancouver. In fact, it could be considered to be the city’s only true mom and pop pot shop.

With a transparent floor-to-ceiling window on West 4th Avenue near Macdonald Street, the husband and wife team of Mike Babins and Maria Petrucci have made their two-year-old compassion club as welcoming as possible.

Visitors can sit on chairs around light wood tables in front of a fireplace. There they can ask expert staff about different cannabis extracts.

Products are displayed elegantly and there's a distinct lack of clutter—making it feel like you've entered someone's living room. It's clear that great care has been devoted to the decor.

"We have a very inviting community vibe," Petrucci says. "People feel they can come in, take their time, ask questions, and they don't feel intimidated."

Because it’s been approved for licensing by the City of Vancouver, patrons can feel safe and secure on the premises. There’s no need to buy pot from a back-alley vendor anymore to maintain privacy.

Babins explains that as a registered B.C. society, all of its members are protected under the personal privacy protection act. No one is even allowed to ask if you’re a member.

"We have people in industries where it wouldn't be good if people found out they were using cannabis after work," Babins says. "Everyone is completely safe and protected."

This has made Evergreen the de facto cannabis community centre on Vancouver’s West Side. And it’s easily accessible for any college or university students who are new to Vancouver.

All they have to do is hop on the Number 2, Number 4, or Number 7 bus and get off at the corner of Macdonald and West 4th Avenue.

Perhaps most importantly, Evergreen Cannabis Society sources all of its marijuana from growers who don't use pesticides or artificial fertilizers. It’s the safest bud on the market—and it’s far less likely to give a person a headache or make someone sick than weed made with toxic chemicals.

“Our motto is ‘Organic, craft, local’,” Babins says. “Everything is pesticide-free and grown by small batch artisan growers.”

Evergreen relies on a small number of B.C. craft producers that it trusts. And this mom and pop operation refuses to buy marijuana from anyone who shows up unannounced with a knapsack full of weed.

"I wouldn't go to a grocery store that bought from someone who came up and said 'I've got some steaks, I killed the cow myself'," Babins says with a laugh.

He’s a former radio host and a voracious reader of scientific literature and popular articles on marijuana. When asked how he became so knowledgeable, he replies that his family has been using cannabis for at least three generations.

For her part, Petrucci survived a cancer scare with the help of Phoenix Tears which, coincidentally, are a hot seller at Evergreen. This experience has given Petrucci deep empathy for Evergreen Cannabis Society members facing their own health challenges.

They decided to open their own dispensary because staff at other outlets wasn’t very helpful when they asked serious questions about Petrucci’s health.

"I just love making people happy and making people healthy—and seeing people from all walks of life, all ages," she says. "It can be people who've never tried marijuana at all or people who were using it in the '60s."

She says the couple are very "pro vaporizer" because it's a much healthier way to consume cannabis. Evergreen only carries butane-free shatters, which are marijuana concentrates from the cannabis plant.

The shop also offers informative lectures on cannabis, cannabinoids, nutrition, and health. To provide more holistic treatment options, she and her husband work with naturopathic doctors, an herbalist, and a massage studio.

According to Babins, their objective was to create an environment that's comfortable, cozy, and professional, but not sterile.

Their application impressed the Board of Variance, which granted unanimous approval after people in the community wrote letters on behalf of the society.

This is also a pot shop with an artsy side. Touring bands like Diamond Head and Testament have dropped by for autograph sessions. Members of the ganja-loving Wailers, Bob Marley’s legendary backing band, have also visited the Evergreen Cannabis Society.

Babins points out that local art is always on display, and he and his wife plan on hosting more cultural events in the future.

It’s situated in a popular area for health-related businesses. A dentist, chiropractor, and Reiki practitioners are also on the same block.

To the west is a locally owned coffee shop and to the east is the Naam vegetarian restaurant and Darby’s Public House, which is the capital of craft beer on the city’s West Side. It makes sense that craft cannabis would be so readily available nearby.

Babins is proud of the personal touch offered at Evergreen. For instance when members buy capsules or oils, he advises them that if they're ever feeling too high, vitamin C will take the edge off. This type of wisdom isn’t available everywhere else—and it’s appreciated by the members.

"We want to be the dispensary that we wanted to go to," Babins says. "We're the grown-up dispensary. We don't have neon pot-leaf signs in our window."

For more information, visit Evergreen Cannabis Society at 2868 West 4th Avenue or online here.

(This article is sponsored by Evergreen Cannabis Society.)
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