Close down illegal pot shops, or leave them alone?

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
December 7, 2017 - 5:01am

KAMLOOPS — Cities and towns across B.C. — including Kamloops — will need the wisdom of Solomon to deal with illegal pot stores in the run-up to a change in federal laws next year.

Until July 1, 2018, the sale of recreational marijuana is illegal, but so is the unlicensed sale of medical marijuana. The impending legalization of recreational cannabis has encouraged the proliferation of medical marijuana shops.

Pick a city and do an online search for cannabis dispensaries and you’ll quickly see the extent of the challenge. There are more than a half dozen such storefronts in Kamloops.

B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth has announced that the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch will handle wholesale distribution of legalized weed, and that retail sales will be done through both private and public channels, but it’s still all very foggy.

In the meantime, there’s the issue of what to do about illegal vendors. Crack down on them, or leave them alone?

“Compassion clubs,” as they’re sometimes called, have been ignored since 2011 when RCMP raided one on Tranquille Road and closed it down. Police can do it again if they feel so inclined but, regardless of that, City Hall is looking at amendments to its business licensing rules to put the squeeze on.

The City says there’s no way of knowing whether their product is safe for consumption, plus not everybody wants a pot shop in their neighbourhood.

If they’re left untouched now, they would be grandfathered and hard to control through city bylaws when legalization comes in.

On the other hand, some people do depend on them for medical marijuana. It’s hard to sympathize with illegal businesses, but hard not to sympathize with people who need them for their medicine.

A year, ago, Penticton approved temporary permits for several dispensaries, but seven months later ended the experiment and banned them outright.

Kamloops council’s approach is to hold a public hearing on proposed bylaw changes to deal with the situation. It promises to be a lively session.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.