Last year, Penticton city council took some bold steps to deal with the growing problem of medical marijuana dispensaries opening in the city, culminating in the issuance of temporary use permits as an interim measure.
If they expected that would prevent them from having to deal with the problem again, before the expected legalization of marijuana sales is passed by the federal government later this year, they were mistaken.
Only two permits were issued, and another five applicants were refused. Not receiving a permit didn’t stop Okanagan Cannabis Solutions, which opened their Main Street location on Jan. 16, or Jukka Laurio, who applied to the city — and was refused — for non-profit status for his Association for Medical Marijuana Awareness. He continues to operate Herbal Green dispensary despite the lack of a permit, and ongoing fines.
Some have stepped aside and are laying low until the federal government comes forward with new rules, Jakubeit said, but others are willing to “roll the dice and take their chances.”
“It is difficult to have a relationship with an entity that has been thumbing their nose at the city,” said Jakubeit, adding that there will probably be more requests than whatever number of dispensaries the city decides to allow.
“You would think it would be in their best interest to try to work with the city and the community,” said Jakubeit.
Laurio, who asked for an appeal to council of the refusal of his non-profit registration, didn’t show up on Tuesday afternoon to represent himself.
City staff had a number of concerns about his non-profit application, including that the society would only be reachable through the illegal Herbal Greens operation, and issuing the registration would give the appearance that the City has approved all activities currently taking place on these premises.
Council unanimously endorsed the denial of Laurio’s application after a short discussion about procedure.
In terms of Okanagan Cannabis Solutions, Jakubeit said the city laid out its plans in early January: weekly fines progressing to daily, then injunctive action.
“We do have to enforce our bylaws. Sometimes it is a slower process, but there is a process and we are going through it,” said Jakubeit.
Anthony Haddad, director of development services, said the city is actively enforcing and fining the operator, and expects to be coming to council in the next month to continue the process to injunctive action. Ken Kunka building and permitting manager, said OCS had applied for and also been refused non-profit registration.
Council also received a letter from a business neighbouring the OCS location. McNaughton Support Services has contracts with Community Living B.C. and the Ministry of Children and Family Development to operate both adult programs and after school youth programs for individuals with developmental disabilities.
Warren McNaughton says the neighbourhood around his business has deteriorated over the past few years, with needles found in the parking lot, prostitution and people using the alcove at the rear entrance for sleeping and injecting drugs. The medical marijuana dispensary adds another concern.
“We were relieved when we heard that city council had not issued a license for this dispensary but see that it is now open in spite of this. This has serious implications for our business, especially with the youth program if families make the decision to not allow the youth to attend,” wrote McNaughton. “We have made every attempt to follow the rules in operating our agency and cannot understand why a business, especially of this nature, is being allowed to open without following these same rules.”