City council has now snuffed out the business licences for two more medical marijuana dispensaries.
Following a pair of special appeal hearings Monday night, council voted by identical 5-2 tallies to cancel the licences for Avitas Pharmaco and Green Essence.
“I have such a struggle here, because – without disclosing fully – I know of people who have benefited immensely from medical cannabis,” said Coun. Campbell Watt, who spoke in favour of the cancellations.
“This, unfortunately and truthfully, is about our business licensing, and we don’t have a fit yet.”
Coun. Tarik Sayeed, who cast one of the dissenting votes, compared the prohibition of marijuana to a ban on same-sex marriages or abortions.
“The fact is, it’s illegal because we’re keeping it illegal,” he said.
Mayor Andrew Jakubeit, who registered the other vote in opposition, argued in favour of letting the dispensaries continue operating until city staff delivers a report to council in September that’s expected to make recommendations and outline how other communities have dealt with the issue.
Due to “the fact that we are going to be discussing this again in about a month’s time, “I’d be happy to sort of continue with the status quo,” said Jakubeit.
Avitas Pharmaco owner Robert Kay was of a like mind, and asked council unsuccessfully for a temporary operating permit that would allow him to stay in business, “without feeling like we’re criminals,” until such time as the city creates bylaws to regulate marijuana dispensaries. He also offered to help craft the new rules.
“It is imperative to have regulations put in place. It is imperative to have the community know what we’re doing,” added Kay, who also operates compassion clubs in Vernon and Kelowna.
“And we need to be part of that, because we’re the experts.”
His shop opened at 150-1636 Main Street in November 2015, but temporarily shut down in August while awaiting the outcome of the appeal hearing.
Green Essence owner Melissa Oslowy began selling marijuana at 409 Martin Street in June and just a few weeks later received a notice of suspension.
She, too, would welcome regulations and help build them.
“We simply want to operate our business in co-operation with the City of Penticton,” said Oslowy, who suggested she may now move her shop to a more marijuana-friendly community.
Council in July also cancelled the business licence for the Rush In and Finish Café marijuana dispensary on Westminster Avenue, although the owner told The Herald last week he is still operating in the face of weekly fines.
Municipalities across Canada are struggling to get a grip on marijuana dispensaries, which have sprouted up in the wake of pending changes to the country’s drug laws. The federal government has pledged to introduce legislation next year to begin the process of legalizing the recreational use of the drug.