Vancouver may soon be seeing fewer marijuana dispensaries, but not all owners are ready to accept their rejection notices.
The city recently issued new zoning and business licensing regulations for marijuana dispensaries. Earlier this year, 176 businesses applied for licences. Of those, 11 marijuana shops were approved to continue on to the second phase of the application process.
The large number of businesses that did not meet the new regulations has some owners planning to appeal the rejection of their applications.
Charles Varabioff, founder of the BC Pain Society, is one of them.
As the owner of two medical marijuana dispensaries in the city, he is in a unique situation following the city’s review of his shops.
“I’m one of the 11 who is approved for step two,” said Varibioff, when asked about his business licence application for his Broadway/Renfrew dispensary. “I’ve already filed my development permit application for that location.”
His second application was not as successful.
The location of Varabioff’s Commercial Drive dispensary is 290 metres from a recreation centre and 270 metres from a private school . The city’s new zoning requirements state that dispensaries must operate at least 300 metres from schools, community centres and other marijuana-related businesses.
READ MORE: 11 Vancouver medical marijuana dispensaries pass first stage of approval process
Varabioff is not convinced that the city’s rejection of his application was the right decision.
“The city has to come up with some sort of regulations. I understand that. The $30,000 licensing fee, I have no problem with that. It will cost the city a lot of time, money and enforcement to implement this program. What is an issue is the proximity rule.”
Varabioff said he considered access to public transit for customers with mobility issues when setting up shop at 2908 Commercial Drive. The location sees approximately 500 customers per day.
“If 100 dispensaries close, there will be members from 100 different locations looking to find a new dispensary. Will they be able to handle the increase in traffic? I think the answer to that is no.”
Varabioff also mentions the local economic impacts of closing multiple dispensaries.
“If I’m forced to move, there’s going to be $250,000 of payroll taken out of the community. I have a $250,000 – $300,000 annual payroll. That’s all through CRA–all taxes are paid, and my employees receive full benefits,” he said. “Of the two locations we have in Vancouver, my main store that runs all the operations is the one they’re telling me I have to shut down.”
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Given the confusion that surrounds access to dispensaries, Varabioff has applied a non-negotiable’ no membership no access’ rule at his shops. Part of BC Pain Society’s membership requirements include a doctor’s note or approval from a notary public.
The city says businesses that did not apply for a licence prior to the deadline will have to close their doors immediately or be subject to enforcement action.
-With files from Yuliya Talmazan