City of North Vancouver takes steps to close pot shops

Jeremy Shepherd / North Shore News


Weeds on Marine owner Michael Wuest expressed surprise that city council plans to pursue pot shops in court. file photo Lisa King, North Shore News

Back off, bud.

The City of North Vancouver is aiming to slam the lid on the host of unlicensed pot shops that have operated with seeming impunity in recent years following Monday’s council meeting.

The crackdown, which involves civil court injunctions, is meant to give the city enough time to draft its own regulations about where and how marijuana dispensaries can operate within city limits.

“I do believe that it should be legalized but it needs to be regulated,” explained Mayor Darrell Mussatto. “This enforcement action here is allowing us some time so that we can put in these regulations before it actually becomes legalized.”

The city is set to move with enforcement on four or five medical marijuana shops in the city, according to the mayor. With nationwide legalization slated for summer, Coun. Rod Clark argued that killing the buzz enjoyed by pot shops would be a waste of resources. “I think it’s foolish to spend taxpayers’ money enforcing something which is going to change as of August of this year.”

There remain questions about how the system will operate, particularly in regards to medical marijuana, Clark noted. He was alone in his opposition, with Coun. Linda Buchanan emphasizing the need for businesses to follow city rules. “Every other business in this community is abiding by the rules,” she said.

The city opted to deny business licences to Weeds Glass & Gifts on Marine Drive as well as Lotusland Cannabis Club on East Second Street in May 2017 after both businesses applied to sell medical and recreational marijuana. Weeds opened in 2015 with a licence to sell marijuana-related glassware but not actual marijuana.

It’s time for the city to move to “the next stage,” according to Buchanan. Coun. Holly Back concurred. “I cannot sit here and honestly support businesses that are illegal,” Back said. “Are we condoning that? That every business in North Vancouver can work without a business licence?”

Council voted 4-1 to begin enforcement on the non-compliant pot shops. Couns. Don Bell and Craig Keating did not attend the meeting. The city also voted to prohibit all marijuana sales until new regulations are prepared.

Michael Wuest, owner of Weeds on Marine, expressed surprise that city council plans to pursue pot shops in court. “I’m not quite sure where that’s coming from,” he said.

Wuest said he’ll wait and see what the city does before talking to lawyers about a response. He added while the federal government has set July 1 as a goal for legalization of recreational cannabis, it’s unclear when pot will actually be legal to buy from storefronts in B.C. In the interim, “We feel very strongly about having people have access to the product,” said Wuest.

There are currently five pot shops operating in the City of North Vancouver. The District of North Vancouver took two marijuana shops that opened there to court to force them to close.

– with files from Jane Seyd

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