Article by Mike O, Cannabis Life Network
The test case that could seal the fates of around 50 of Vancouver’s medical dispensaries kicked off yesterday in BC Supreme Court with lead plaintiff Karuna Health Foundation battling the City of Vancouver to remain open and continue facilitating medical cannabis patients’ right to reasonably access their medicine.
The City of Vancouver wants to shut down the 50 or so unlicensed dispensaries while lawyers for the dispensaries asked that the city’s application be thrown out of court, saying that the current medical dispensary regime was unconstitutional.
Dispensary lawyer John Conroy said that dispensaries are in a legal grey zone, and since Vancouver decided to go the civil route and license dispensaries instead of taking the criminal approach, the city aided and abetted these dispensaries- all while charging licensing fees in excess of $30,000.
The City of Vancouver wants to shut down these dispensaries for two types of non-compliance- zoning and licensing- but dispensary lawyers argued that medical cannabis dispensaries should be exempt from zoning restrictions- such as being 300 m away from schools, community centers, other dispensaries, etc.- because medical patient’s mobility issues need to be considered as well.
Big differences between medical and recreational dispensaries
The dispensaries’ constitutional challenge is based on the distinction between the medical and recreational regimes, which are very distinct. There are currently no provisions for medical dispensaries in the Cannabis Act as patients are expected to either buy their medical cannabis online (which is the only way it can be purchased) or go to a recreational store.
The issue is patient access because many patients don’t want to (or can’t afford to) wait days for their medicine to come in the mail, which could be a potential violation of the patient’s Charter if it interferes with reasonable access.