Vancouver is becoming the first Canadian city where sales of home-grown pot are regulated by municipal legislation. This attempt of city government comes after a series of fruitless struggle to shut down illegal cannabis sales outlets. In Canada, cannabis has been officially permitted as medical prescription drug, but sales and distribution for recreational purposes still remain illegal. And now it seems Vancouver is taking the first step to total legalization of weed.
According to Geoff Meggs, Vancouver city councilor, the time has come to treat marijuana just like any other excise-related product. ‘Marijuana is apparently just as popular, if not more, than alcohol and tobacco’, Meggs commented, ‘so we don’t see why it should not be treated similarly, with licenses and taxes’.
At the same time, legalizing cannabis sales contravenes with official policy of Canadian Federal government. Rona Ambrose, the Health Minister of Canada, has stated in a public speech that ‘any attempt to regulate the pot shops would mean legitimizing an illegal activity’. She also wrote an open letter to the Vancouver municipal administration, with request to reject regulating proposals and have the police hunt down backstreet dealers.
Despite the arguments ongoing on every level of government on legalization versus prohibition, the city itself seems to be obsessed with hemp shops and cannabis culture. Neon-glowing marijuana leaves appeared on numerous city pubs, bars and local stores, hinting on availability of various buds and strains in stock. Just like pharmacists at regular drug stores, so-called ‘naturopaths’ are becoming available to give their quasi-medical advice to pot customers. The police treats these signs neutrally, if not approvingly, saying in one of their recent statements that ‘closing down marijuana shops in not currently a priority’.
Meanwhile, the news rules regulate licensing of marijuana stores, with average business licensing fee of $30 000 (compared to a regular general business fee of $250), and prohibit selling weed and related products in close proximity to schools, community centers, or another point of sale – this aims not to allow agglomeration of hemp shops in one area or district.
It is hard to predict how these new regulations will influence marijuana supply or demand in the city, and whether or not pot dealers decide to come out of the shadows. But this will undoubtedly make Vancouver more attractive to tourists, and discharge the negative atmosphere between common marijuana users and law enforcement.