Are Vancouver pot dispensaries’ dreams up in smoke?

Dispensaries without a business licence (which is most of them) must shut down by May

As Vancouver marijuana aficianados gather at Sunset Beach to celebrate 4/20, the city’s board of variance will be hearing appeals from four dispensaries whose business licence applications were refused. And the clock is ticking: as of April 29, unlicensed dispensaries have to shut down.

Of the 176 dispensaries that applied for business licences, just seven are awaiting a business licence. Another 13 have met zoning requirements and are are going through the next stage of the process, while the rest are appealing to the board of variance or have rescinded their application. Because most of the board of variance hearings continue after April 29, it creates a confusing situation for those who still want an application but will have to close while they await a hearing and can then continue on through the application process, according to David Brown, director of communications at Lift Cannabis News Magazine, which reports on Canada’s cannabis industry.

If dispensaries remain open after April 29, Brown expects that the city will look at each one on a case-by-case basis. “I don’t think the city is looking to do one huge wave of closures on May 1,” he says. He thinks closures will be carried out in what Vancouver licensing director Andreea Toma has referred to as “clusters,” and he believes the most direct method would be through a court injunction similar to what the city of Abbotsford did. “I think it’s probably the cleanest, swiftest way to deal with anyone who isn’t closing. My understanding is that an injunction doesn’t need to be one at a time.” Other options would be daily bylaw fines or a court-ordered fine of up to $10,000.

Estimates vary as to how many dispensaries will ultimately make it through the city process. City councillor Kerry Jang has estimated 15 to 20 dispensaries will ultimately receive licences, but Brown thinks 25 is a reasonable estimate—“could be a bit more, could be a bit less.”

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