Cannabis dispensary owners lose licensing case against City of Vancouver in B.C.’s highest court

Several high-profile weed companies without provincial private retail licenses have failed in a legal bid to carry on business in Vancouver.

Marketeering Group / Flickr


Several high-profile weed companies without provincial private retail licenses have failed in a legal bid to carry on business in Vancouver.

Eleven dispensaries-including Weeds Glass & Gifts Ltd, Karuna Health Foundation, and Cannabis Culture-went to the B.C. Court of Appeal to try to overturn a City of Vancouver bylaw regulating the location of cannabis businesses.

In 2018, B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson dismissed four of the dispensaries’ application for a judicial declaration that the city had exceeded its legal jurisdiction.

In the B.C. Court of Appeal, these dispensaries, along with seven others, argued that Hinkson had erred in two ways:

  •  by finding that the city had acted within its authority;
  •  and by not ruling that the bylaws contravened medically approved cannabis patients’ rights to reasonable access, which is protected under section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

On February 4, three judges on the B.C. Court of Appeal-Peter Willcock, David Tysoe, and Joyce DeWitt–Van Oosten-unanimously dismissed the appeal.

The appellants had argued that the chambers judge applied a standard of ‘sufficient access’ for medical patients rather than ‘reasonable access’ when applying the city’s ‘Medical Marijuana-Related Use’ amendments (a.k.a. MMRU).

‘This argument is fundamentally flawed insofar as it considers the MMRU bylaws to have restricted access to medical marijuana when the dispensaries were not legally providing medical marijuana to patients at the material time,’ Willcock wrote in the ruling. ‘The legal restriction on sale and distribution of medical marijuana was found entirely in the federal legislation and it was not open to the City to afford reasonable or any access to medical cannabis.”

Moreover, Willcock declared on behalf of the panel that Hinkson ‘clearly recognized’ that individuals should be given reasonable access to medical cannabis in accordance with section 7 of the charter.

‘He did not err in law in describing the test,’ Willcock wrote. ‘Nor was there a palpable and overriding error in his application of that test to the evidence before him.’

Long-time cannabis activist Jodie Emery expressed her displeasure on her Twitter feed.

‘Another #NewProhibition cannabis criminalization blow against pioneers, medical patients and #cannabis access providers,’ Emery wrote. ‘Peaceful harmless people are STILL being brutally abused by cruel governments & unjust laws. ‘Legalization’ of what? And for whom?’

Charlie Smith

I'm the editor of the Georgia Straight newspaper in Vancouver, as well as a CannCentral contributor.

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