North Van district bans medical marijuana dispensaries
BY BENJAMIN ALLDRITT, NORTH SHORE NEWS
Deep Cove resident Ken Starr is blasting District of North Vancouver councillors for blocking his plans to open a medical marijuana dispensary in a commercial space just off Mount Seymour Parkway.
At a special meeting Tuesday, district council voted unanimously to ban dispensaries unless the federal government decides to regulate them.
"I don't think any one of them has a soul in there," Starr said after the vote.
"They all say they're compassionate, but not in my backyard. Typical form of NIMBYism. It's very disheartening and sad. I've lost hope in any of those councillors and a lot of people who have spoken up against this. It's a sad mark on humanity."
The vote follows a packed public hearing June 14, in which medical marijuana patients, cannabis activists and Deep Cove residents made their arguments for and against. Although the bylaw covers the entire district, it was brought forward in response to Starr's Re-Leaf Dispensary Society. Police and district staff prevented Starr from opening the dispensary in early June.
"This has been a very extensive process," said Coun. Doug MacKay-Dunn, brandishing a large binder of documents.
"I found the entire discussion, for me, quite instructive and rather disappointing in terms of what action has not been taken by the federal government to deal with what I think is a pressing national issue -providing appropriate benefits to those suffering in pain and agony. That's a decision that must be decided at the federal level, not in this room."
MacKay-Dunn said he had plenty of contact with marijuana, medical and otherwise, during his 31-year career with the Vancouver police department.
"I wasn't one to bust someone for a half a bag of marijuana or whatever," he said.
"I'm not a rabid narc. In fact, I met people through my service who were using marijuana because they were dealing with chemotherapy and they told me it was quite successful. So I didn't kick in their door in the middle of the night and conduct a drug search. It's not about that."
The issue, said each member of councillor, was land use.
"One would have to be made of stone to not have empathy for these people and their family members who suffer alongside them," said Coun. Alan Nixon.
"But we've also heard from a very significant number of people who simply don't want a marijuana dispensary in their neighbourhood, in proximity to schools and in many cases where students would pass by the front door of the proposed establishment on a regular basis."
"It's hardly a central location on the North Shore," said Coun. Lisa Muri, who choked back tears at the recollection of some of last week's presentations.
"From a planning perspective, even if it was legal, the regional draw and impacts would have to be considered to find an appropriate location."
"I really feel for people who are in that situation," Coun. Mike Little said. "I want to do everything in our power to show our community can be a compassionate community that works very hard to reduce the stigmas attached to people who need help."
But council's sympathetic words didn't ring true to Starr, who said district council framed the debate around land use in order to "pass the buck" to the federal government.
"I think they missed a huge opportunity -the chance to have a dispensary in their neighbourhood, to help people, to show children and adults alike that this could help so many people, the opportunity for me to be there and educate people."
Starr said he wasn't sure what his next move would be, but said he is locked into a twoyear lease for the dispensary's premises.
"I hope I have a compassionate landlord, or it could go very bad for my family, for trying to do something good," he said.