The WeeMedical Dispensary Society’s medical pot shop in North Delta has been told to butt out by Delta council – but the society’s director is vowing to stay open.
On Monday afternoon, Delta council voted unanimously to deny the society’s appeal for a business licence to sell medical marijuana at its shop on Scott Road.
“It’s clear Delta bylaws don’t allow the sale of medical marijuana,” Coun. Jeannie Kanakos said.
WeeMedical was appealing a decision last month by the municipality’s Property Use and Compliance department to deny it a business licence.
The society, which operates a store with a business licence in Port Alberni, opened its North Delta location at 9501 120 St. on April 19.
But two weeks later, the Corporation of Delta denied an application for a business licence, explaining medical marijuana is “contrary to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act of Canada. The Corporation of Delta does not issue business licences for unlawful businesses.”
In a letter to council, society director May Joan Liu (left) argued Delta doesn’t have zoning bylaws for a medical marijuana dispensary, “as it is a new and emerging industry requiring changes and adjustments to existing bylaws.”
Liu wrote that more than 300 people registered for the use of medical pot within two weeks of the store opening. She said the store now has 500 members.
“Medical marijuana has proven to be beneficial to one’s health, yet it is illegal and being treated as an illicit drug,” said Liu. “Just following the law as it is sets us backward not forwards.”
However Coun. Bruce McDonald said the merits of marijuana weren’t the focus of Monday’s meeting.
“We’re not here to talk about marijuana as good, bad, or indifferent. We’re talking about a business.”
Jade Rowat, an employee at the North Delta store, noted different municipalities have different views on the issue of medical marijuana stores.
“Everyone is iffy on it, they’re so worried about being out of that grey area. But there is always going to be a grey area,” said Rowat. “Vancouver is going to have different rules, Delta is going to have different rules.”
The federal government has promised to start the process of legalizing marijuana next spring. In the meantime, municipalities have been left to deal with the proliferation of pot dispensaries.
Surrey has remained steadfastly against allowing medical marijuana stores in the city.
Currently operating with a business licence in Port Alberni, WeeMedical also has stores in Campbell River and Sechelt, where the two municipal governments are in the process of drafting local bylaws to regulate medical marijuana businesses.
In Vancouver, where WeeMedical does not have a store, Liu said 20 business licences for medical marijuana stores have been issued.
In contrast, the City of Chilliwack has issued fines in excess of $44,000 to Weemedical, while Chilliwack RCMP have raided the store in that community twice. Earlier this month, Chilliwack council voted unanimously to reject a business licence application from WeeMedical.
Rowat said closing the North Delta store would deny a necessary service to its clients.
“So many people come in an tell me what a great job everyone is doing. Some people get choked up when we talk about it leaving and getting shut down,” she said. “So many people would be devastated.
“There’s so many people form Surrey and Delta who come here because they need medication and they can’t go all the way into Vancouver.”
Following council’s decision on Monday, Lui vowed to keep WeeMedical’s North Delta store open.