Medical marijuana sales back before Penticton city council Tuesday

It was a quiet crowd that began to filter into Penticton's Gyro Park Sunday afternoon for a rally supporting medical marijuana dispensaries

JoAnn Murphy was one of the attendees at a rally in Penticton's Gyro Park in support of storefront medical marijuana dispensaries. The issue returns to city council on Sept. 6.

JoAnn Murphy was one of the attendees at a rally in Penticton's Gyro Park in support of storefront medical marijuana dispensaries. The issue returns to city council on Sept. 6.

It was a quiet crowd that began to filter into Penticton’s Gyro Park Sunday afternoon.

The relaxed mood wasn’t surprising, considering this was a rally in support of letting medical marijuana dispensaries operate in the city.

“It is just a community gathering. Nobody actually organized today; it is just a bunch of people that showed up,” said Jo Scofield, who helped get the word out about the gathering. “It took off online, so I decided to put some information together and come down and see what happens.”

Over the summer, the City of Penticton has taken action against four medical marijuana dispensaries operating in the city, while also directing city staff to look into options for regulating them. That report comes before council Tuesday, Sept. 6 at a committee of the whole meeting.

The first option from staff would see zoning bylaws strengthened with language prohibiting storefront sales of marijuana, to be revisited once new federal rules are in place.

That option also includes escalating enforcement against non-compliant businesses, including targeting the property owners as well as the business owners.

The second option would make room for medical marijuana dispensaries under strict zoning and bylaw regulations, with a one-time licensing fee of $5,000 and a yearly renewal fee of $2,500. The base fee for a regular business licence is $175.

JoAnn Murphy, the only person to have brought a sign to the Sunday rally – hers read “Defend Dispensaries” — considers herself a veteran of the cannabis movement.

“I come equipped for these events,” said Murphy, who also attended a rally in Kelowna after a dispensary operating there got raided, and also collected signatures for a referendum.

“The whole plant has great meaning to me, and it includes the environment, it is not all about the smoking of the pot,” said Murphy. She acknowledges the medical uses are important for the patients, but is looking at a bigger picture.

“They are not being allowed to grow hemp for industrial purposes. For me that is a big deal,” said Murphy. “We’re cutting down forests when we could be making paper from hemp.”

Jim and Raylene Park, along with their dog Izzy, drove down from Kelowna to show their support. Jim said he sometimes uses cannabis for back pain, but noted that their trip was really just to show support in general.

“It’s a needed product,” said Jim, while Raylene chimed in “I have a nephew that has MS, it helps him cope with life. It takes the pain away and it helps him sleep.”

Scofield said it is about equality of access to medical care.

“It is just a different choice. There is no reason that somebody, like myself, should be forced to choose a list of side effects that they decide is more acceptable as opposed to what I think is more acceptable for my life.”