At 3 p.m. today, one of Vancouver's pioneering dispensaries will square off against the bureaucrats at a Board of Variance appeal at Vancouver City Hall.
WEEDS Glass & Gifts has been operating a store for five years at 2580 Kingsway. It always paid its business taxes. Its employees have always earned more than the minimum wage. And it was created with the goal of continuing in the cannabis business after weed was legalized.
The City of Vancouver, on the other hand, had a different idea. It rejected the company's application for a development permit to convert its dispensary into a licensed recreational cannabis store. Municipal approval is a necessary requirement to obtain a provincial licence.
This refusal occurred even though WEEDS closed all of its stores in surrounding communities, laying off nearly 200 workers, in the hopes that the city would give it the green light. Still, the answer was "no".
That's why WEEDS is seeking to have the Board of Variance overturn the decision. It's a publicly appointed body that reviews bureaucratic decisions to refuse a development permit.
In a news release, the company said it's hoping for a big public turnout in the Townhall section on the main floor of Vancouver City Hall to send a message.
This issue highlights how legalization of cannabis has not worked out very well for pioneering retailers who opened dispensaries to serve their medicinal clients and to force governments to institute licensing regimes.
Many of these entrepreneurs been ordered to close just as large, publicly traded licensed producers and provincial government monopolies have gobbled up a fair chunk of the industry's profits, post-legalization.
"The City of Vancouver instituted distance based by-laws that rendered most pre-legalization dispensaries locations noncompliant, making it very easy for the city to reject development permit applications from these businesses," WEEDS stated in its news release. "It then becomes the onus of the store owner to reach out to the community, work with religious, parental groups, schools and community centres, peel back 100 years of fear-mongering and misinformation, overcome their motivation to protect their community from the 'Devil’s Lettuce', and obtain their support for their store. A formidable challenge. The only recourse is to overwhelm the detractors with supporters...If you really do want to help WEEDS and make a stand for your rights, NOW is the time!”