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City issues first business licence to marijuana dispensary

Pot shop on West 10th Avenue in Point Grey makes history
Wealth Shop Society at #104-4545 West 10th Ave is the first marijuana dispensary in the city's history to be issued a business licence. Photo Dan Toulgoet

The City of Vancouver issued Monday the first-ever business licence for a pot shop in the city’s history to operators of a marijuana dispensary that will soon open on West 10th Avenue in Point Grey.

Wealth Shop Society at suite 104-4545 West 10th Ave, which shares a parking lot with Safeway and in a complex that includes a law office, dentist and veterinarian, is a new retail dispensary and did not have an existing location in Vancouver.

As of Tuesday, it had not opened for business but had set up a website that gave some insight into how it would operate.

“We are out to reinvent how things are done,” said the website, noting Wealth Shop is now accepting applications to become a member. “Dispensaries have a bad name in Vancouver. We want to create an approachable, accessible and safe environment for all our members.”

The website claimed Wealth Shop only works with trusted suppliers that meet “our rigorous product safety, sustainable and health standards.” The Courier was unable to contact the owner before this story was posted.

Andreea Toma, the city’s chief licensing inspector, said Tuesday the society has met all of the city’s new rules to regulate a dispensary, including its staff undergoing criminal record checks and signing a “good neighbour agreement.”

“It signals that the city is committed to this – it’s not that we were never willing to issue a business licence,” Toma told the Courier. “If anything that they do doesn’t meet our current regulations, we will bring them back in and have a chat with them. The good neighbour agreement signed yesterday clearly indicated that, and they were all willing to sign it.”

Toma said the society wants to open two other dispensaries, which are currently under review. The society is registered under the B.C. Societies Act but Toma said the operators haven’t indicated whether they will seek to open a compassion club or retail business in the other locations.

Toma said Wealth Shop paid $20,000 for its business licence, which covers the remainder of the year. The city has set the annual fee for a retail dispensary at $30,000, which the owners will have to pay once its first year of operation expires. The fee for a compassion club is $1,000.

Toma said operators of two other dispensaries are close to having the city issue business licences. To acquire a business licence, applicants must first be approved for a development permit. Wealth Shop was one of 10 applicants approved for a development permit.

In June 2015, city council voted 8-3 with a staff proposal that calls for annual licence fees, criminal record checks and zoning regulations that prohibit pot shop from operating within 300 metres of schools, community centres, neighbourhood houses and each other.

Though council’s purpose is to regulate the business – not the marijuana – the new regulations allow for the sale of marijuana oils, tinctures and capsules.

Meanwhile, the city continues to issue $250 tickets to those pot shops that refused to close their doors last month. The shops were given six months to close or find another location and participate in the city’s business licence application process. As of Tuesday, 30 stores had complied, 61 remain open, 139 tickets have been issued and seven paid.

The federal government has said it will introduce legislation next spring to legalize marijuana.

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