In a Solomon-like decision Tuesday, council separated out the issue of storefront marijuana sales from whether Jukka Laurio should have a business licence.
Laurio, who owns the Rush in and Finnish Café, has been selling cannabis products from his operation for about 15 months. After his business licence was suspended earlier this year, Laurio asked for a public hearing to appeal the decision to council, arguing there was a big demand for medical marijuana and that sales of the drug were in a grey area as Canada awaits promised legalization.
Council’s decision to deny Laurio’s business licence but give city staff 60 days to research regulations to govern medical marijuana dispensaries, as Vancouver introduced earlier this year, was one of the wisest decisions they could have made.
As Coun. Tarik Sayeed said, this is not a problem that is going to go away anytime soon, and the storefront operations do reduce street trafficking in marijuana. Laurio himself admitted to 45 years of selling weed, and intimate he isn’t likely to stop, whether he does it quasi-legally through his café or not.
So far, governments and government agencies have shown show a preference to stay out of the fray, but that has only led to the proliferation of operations like Laurio’s, which some city councillors felt was skirting more than just the regulations governing sale of cannabis.
If nothing else, Laurio and the three other storefront marijuana dispensaries have shown there is a demand in the community to be able to purchase in a safe environment, raising the question of where they are going to buy their pot?
Until the federal government comes back with legislation and decides whether marijuana sales are going to be treated like corn flakes, cognac or codeine, Penticton does need to lay out a plan for dealing with the dispensaries that are going to continue to pop up between now and whenever that day arrives.