Vancouver’s pot shops may have a legal case if they challenge new city rules that charge them tens of thousands of dollars for a licence – far more than other businesses, including body rub parlours and escort agencies, experts say.
Joel Bakan, a law professor at the University of British Columbia, says a court could see the $30,000 fee charged to for-profit medical marijuana dispensaries as “as prohibitive, rather than merely regulatory.”
“Is there justification … to charge a hundredfold more for a pot shop than for a pet shop? That is the question,” Prof. Bakan said.
New rules prevent dispensaries from setting up within 300 metres of schools and other pot shops, and they also ban the sale of edible cannabis candies and baked goods over concerns they appeal to children.
The licensing fee was approved by city council last month, along with a $1,000 fee for non-profit compassion clubs.
The city said it had to respond to the growth of marijuana shops – as many as 100 now – which technically violate federal drug laws’ prohibition on selling pot. The deadline to apply for the licences is the end of August. The city is refusing to say how many applications it has received.
The owner of Vancouver’s largest chain of dispensaries says he and other operators are contemplating a lawsuit, but the city said no one has filed a legal challenge.
Prof. Bakan said council is right to limit where dispensaries can be located and what they can sell, but he argued the “completely disproportionate” dispensary fee could be seen as an attempt to stamp out the storefront sales of marijuana.
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