Illegal pharmacies are still operating in Vancouver three years after the cannabis law went into effect

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“If you and I decided to start a moonshine business and open it in any part of Vancouver around the corner, it wouldn’t be 24 hours, the VPD would be on us in no time. We’re talking about a criminal venture.” open in sight. “- Harrison Stoker

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Gordon McIntyre Three years after Canada became the first G20 country to legalize recreational marijuana, Vancouver still has eight illegal dispensaries. Three years after Canada became the first G20 country to legalize recreational marijuana, Vancouver still has eight illegal dispensaries. Photo by Elaine Thompson /PNG

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Three years after Canada became the first G20 country to legalize recreational marijuana, Vancouver still has eight illegal dispensaries.

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And legal retail pharmacy owners, who pay close to $ 34,000 a year for a license in Vancouver, aren’t happy about that.

Harrison Stoker, chief growth officer for the Donnelly Group’s cannabis businesses, thinks even an illegal shop is absurd.

“If you and I decided to start a moonshine business and open it in any part of Vancouver around the corner, it wouldn’t be 24 hours, the VPD would be over there in no time,” he said. “We’re talking about a criminal venture that opens up in sight.”

Vancouver has 53 fully licensed cannabis dispensaries, said Sarah Hicks, acting director of licensing controls, eight of which operate illegally.

“The illegal market remains an ongoing problem as new illegal cannabis pop-ups keep popping up,” said a report by Vancouver City officials.

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Vancouver police are focusing their drug enforcement priorities on organized, sophisticated producers and distributors of hard drugs like heroin, fentanyl and crack cocaine, a spokeswoman said.

“Marijuana legalization does not have a significant impact on daily VPD operations,” said Const. Tania Visintin said.

The discontent is not limited to the lower mainland: The Okanagan Cannabis Collective sent a letter to the Department of Public Security and Attorney General on October 13, urging the province to take action against illegal cannabis deals, calling on Mike Farnworth, the responsible person Minister, up. step back.

“Since the legalization of cannabis in 2018, the minister has shown the PSSG that he is unable to manage these files,” the letter reads.

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Provincial Community Safety Unit (CSU) officials have confiscated an estimated $ 20 million worth of cannabis from more than 70 inspections, fined $ 1.2 million and closed 173 unlicensed retailers, a ministry spokesman said Friday.

Harrison Stoker, Donnelly Group's Chief Growth Officer, is unhappy that eight illegal marijuana dispensaries are still operating three years after the Vancouver Canabis Act went into effect. Harrison Stoker, Donnelly Group’s Chief Growth Officer, is unhappy that eight illegal marijuana dispensaries are still operating three years after the Vancouver Canabis Act went into effect. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

The cannabis law went into effect on October 17, 2018, but there are still many bugs to fix, industry officials said.

“I’d say we moved an inch when we should have walked a mile,” said Stoker.

A Vancouver retail cannabis pharmacy license will be cut to $ 13,500 next year and $ 5,000 in 2022 after the council debated and approved the measure on Oct. 5. The license fee raised $ 1.6 million in the past fiscal year.

In comparison, normal retail stores in Vancouver pay between $ 155 and $ 286 per year for a commercial license, liquor stores $ 429 and a large grocery store (50,000 square feet) $ 4,595 per year, the city officials report.

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When comparing retail cannabis royalties in other lower mainland communities, New Westminster is on the other end of the spectrum from Vancouver, charging $ 2,684 a year, the report said.

There is no retail license fee for pot shops in Toronto on the way out of the province because the Ontario government shares excise revenue with the communities.

In BC, the public might be interested to know that the province isn’t doing the same, Stoker said.

“It doesn’t really make it into the papers, but I’d say the bigger business community, and just voters in general, would be quite surprised to hear that the province doesn’t share excise revenue with cities so they can do it all.” get those files right, ”he said.

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In addition to increasing tax revenues, which in the past disappeared on the black market, the cannabis law should marginalize, if not completely, the illegal market.

Other problems licensed cannabis retailers face include competing with illegal mail order companies and not using third party delivery services because it is illegal to deliver cannabis unless the vehicle used is owned or owned by the retailer leased this.

What to make of the bowl of spaghetti, which are the federal rules set by Health Canada that must be interpreted and enforced by provincial and local courts?

“I’d say we’re still roughly where we were three years ago,” said Stoker. “Not that much has changed, except for the fact that everyone in the cannabis retail industry is likely to have a little more clarity on how to interpret the regulatory framework and policies after going through three years of going through it.

“Besides that, there are still a lot of fuzzy lines and a lot of things that are not clear.”

gordmcintyre@postmedia.com

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