Any medical marijuana dispensaries thinking about setting up shop in Penticton before legalization and a regulation framework is in place should rethink their plans.
“We’ve only authorized two temporary use permits, mainly so people would have access to medical marijuana until more regulations come into play,” said Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit, adding that until that happens, only those two dispensaries will be allowed.
“Any one who is operating without a business licence, we are going to be coming down heavy with fines and/or injunctive action,” said Jakubeit.
Early in December, council reviewed seven applications to operate marijuana dispensaries under heavily-regulated temporary use permits, approving two that had been operating previously and shown willingness to work with the city.
Okanagan Cannabis Solutions was not one of the approved applicants, but have recently begun putting up signage in a storefront at 575 Main St.
“Bylaw has sent them a letter saying you have to take your signs down by Jan. 6,” said Jakubeit. Groups that try to work around the city’s temporary regulations, he continued, may have a more difficult time getting approval after legalization.
“If it is similar to the liquor licensing branch then all referrals have to come through the city for endorsement,” said Jakubeit. “When it comes into fruition and you need councils support, if you’ve done nothing, but defy what the city is doing, then you may not get that support.
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Jakubeit said there are likely to be many group waiting in the wings who also see legalization as an opportunity.
“I am sure we are going to get lots of applications in there and there is only going to be a limited number of openings and locations,” said Jakubeit, noting that Okanagan Cannabis Solutions has sent a letter to council asking them to reconsider their application.
“At the moment, we’re not reconsidering any of those temporary use permits. We made a decision on two,” said Jakubeit, who expects that in six months there may be more of a framework from the federal government and the city will revisit policies, bylaws and zoning, which will be one of the city’s main tools to control numbers and the placement of dispensaries.
Jakubeit encourages all those who are interested in operating a dispensary to comply and wait until the city is ready to take on more under new policies.
Read more: Penticton nips dispensaries in the bud
He expects it will be a similar framework to the way liquor is governed, with restrictions of how far apart they need to be, how close they can be to schools and other factors.
Jukka Laurio, who operates Herbal Green Apothecary, another of the applications council turned down for a permit, is trying a different tack, wanting to set up a licenced medical marijuana production facility.
Jakubeit said there have been a few inquiries about establishing a licensed grow facility under Health Canada guidelines. It would have been classed as an industrial use, and the city would have been receptive, he said, but none have followed through, possibly due to the difficulty of obtaining the federal production license.
“Having accepted ‘medical marijuana,’ supporting its distribution through a legally grey area of the law, acknowledging the community need, the time has come for Penticton city council to do something that is actually legal,” wrote Laurio in a letter to city council.
According to Jakubeit, this is the first he has heard of Laurio’s plans.
“I think he alleges this has been in the works for a long period of time. He has never made a formal application, so that is sort of news to us,” said Jakubeit, who isn’t sure Laurio’s plans are practical.
“I think he wants to do it in the same building, using a back room,” said Jakubeit. “I am not sure you can have your production and your retail in the same location.”