A new marijuana dispensary will soon be joining the two permitted operations in Penticton.
“We’ve retained legal counsel and we are going to open our doors,” said Robert Jaenicke, manager of the Okanagan Cannabis Solutions Society outlets. He plans to open his doors on Jan. 16, even without a permit from the city.
Unlike Green Essence and Okanagan Cannabinoid Therapy, Jaenicke wasn’t approved for a temporary use permit at Penticton city council’s Dec. 6 meeting. Jaenicke said that decision wasn’t fair or, in his opinion, legal.
“We were happy to see that the City of Penticton decided to be progressive and forward in their thinking and start regulating dispensaries in anticipation of legalization,” said Jaenicke, adding that when they put in their application for a permit, he thought it would be a straightforward process.
“It turns out we didn’t even really get considered,” said Jaenicke, who had already leased the space at 575 Main St. and had a staff waiting.
“They even said in the council hearing that we met the criteria,” said Jaenicke. “If we met the criteria, I don’t understand why they would just grant them to the two operators that were already open and actually flouting the bylaws.
“Not that I have anything against them. I think they should be there as well. I think we should all be allowed to operate and let the market decide. The city council just created a monopoly by only allowing these two to have a temporary use permit. “
Council reviewed seven applications for permits to operate medical marijuana dispensaries and chose to approve only two. Both were operations that had been operating before the city’s summer crackdown, but had, in council’s view, complied with city directives and worked with the city.
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“Up until that point, no one was working with the city, the city didn’t have any guidelines in place for this. To say that they were working with the city and acting in a responsible manner is not really factual,” said Jaenicke, adding that his group also showed good faith in trying to work with the city.
“I already had the building leased. I could have opened up anytime I wanted, but I chose to work through the process and get the municipal permits before we opened our doors,” said Jaenicke. “I have sent a couple of letters to the mayor and to city council, all of which have been ignored.”
Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said it’s a frustrating scenario for all involved, but the city developed the temporary use permit process to get ahead of the proliferation of the dispensaries.
He said council made a choice to choose two of the four existing operations, and not to include the new applications until the federal government provided a legalization structure.
“We are still in shades of grey here,” said Jakubeit. The two shops approved, he added, were known quantities and trying to be good corporate citizens and professional in their presentation and sales procedures.
“It was just that they were new that we put things on hold until we had more clarification from the federal government,” said Jakubeit, noting that temporary use permits are issued at city council’s discretion.
Jaenicke doesn’t think it is in the best interest of the city to be granting a monopoly to two operators, nor is it in the best interest of the customers.
“It just leads to higher prices, less selection. We are a compassion club so we price our product accordingly and make it affordable for our clients, because we are a not-for-profit enterprise,” said Jaenicke, adding that it might cost the city a lot of money to fight him on opening the shop.
“We have locations in other communities and we have zero complaints against it. We operate in a responsible manner,” said Jaenicke, who has similar operations in West Kelowna and Vernon. He says they have a large number of clients who live in Penticton and it would benefit them if they open a shop in the city.
“I am opening Monday morning at 10 a.m.,” said Jaenicke. He had planned to put up a banner announcing the planned opening, but chose not to.
“We don’t want to rub it in the city’s face,” said Jaenicke. “We want to work with the city. We don’t want to have an adversarial relationship with anybody; that’s not what we are about.“
Jaenicke said he understands concerns about the distance to the school, but it is outside the city’s 200 metre requirement.
“I don’t think it should be treated any differently than any other business,” said Jaenicke. “Our windows are all blocked off, we have nothing visible from the street. We only allow people 25 years old and older in the door.”
Jukka Laurio, operator of Herbal Green Apothecary, continues to operate without a city permit.
“Nothing has changed. We’ve moved to the new location, it’s a much better location,” said Laurio. He is receiving fines on a regular basis and expects the city to step up action.
“I’m not getting along with the city at all,” said Laurio.
Jakubeit said they are taking action against dispensaries operation without permits.
“The first two weeks is typically a $250 fine, and then it will shift to $500 daily,” said Jakubeit. The next step is for council to authorize city staff to take injunctive action, to have the courts help close the operation down.
Laurio isn’t sure if he is going to bother paying the fines this time. He said he settled with the city on his prior fines, but was denied a temporary use permit at the December council meeting.
“It’s going to end up in a courtroom somewhere,” said Laurio. “They’re either going to go for an injunctive action or ask for the fines to be paid.”