The Vancouver Approach

As a marijuana enthusiast in Ontario, I like to daydream about what life is like in Vancouver.  Vancouver, to rest of Canada, must seem like how Colorado or Washington seems to the rest of the US.  Sure, marijuana is not outright legal in Vancouver, but for those in the medical marijuana system there are fewer restrictions and far more options to medicate; everything from walk up dispensaries and vending machines to concentrates and edibles. 


Why is this?  And why hasn’t this format spread to the rest of the country?  Is it because certain municipalities have stepped up and said they will not enforce antiquated laws?  Is it the Police Department who’s deemed pot crime a waste of their time and tax payers money?  And why have the feds not stepped in to put a stop to all of this?  I seem to think if someone got a storefront on Queen West in Toronto, stocked it with medical grade MMAR sourced product (including concentrates and edibles) and only sold to those with a valid medical license, they would be shut down before they could say the word “pinner”.


So why’s Vancouver so special?  How can someone do something there that would be considered a crime elsewhere in the country with little to no consequences?   Is it the city?  The police?  Or an ideology that needs to spread?


For one, Vancouver city council members do not see dispensaries as a problem and are in fact challenging the federal government hoping to be able to designate dispensaries as pharmacies (Feb 8, 2015 Globe & Mail) which would give the city the ability to oversee operations and control their growth.  In an interview with the Vancouver Sun, Councilor Kerry Change stated the city believes the federal law interferes with the right of people to access medicine. As a result, the city won’t make any extraordinary efforts to shut down “professionally run” medical marijuana walk-up dispensaries, even though most operate without city business licenses. 


According to the federal government and Health Canada however, walk-up dispensaries are not regulated and the only legal way to get marijuana is through a prescription from a doctor or nurse practitioner, receiving product from a government-licensed producer via Canada Post and are limited to purchasing only dried flowers (no concentrates or edibles).   *And while you can be registered with one or more producer, the process can be a bit confusing as you can only have one medical document.


So again, how can Vancouver shrug off these regulations as mere suggestions?  A big part of it has to do with the outlook of the police department.  The police in Vancouver support the stance of the city and have stated that dispensaries are not a priority.  Does that mean they are completely turning a blind eye?  Not really…. Remember that part about being “professionally run”, a small handful of raids have taken place where that was apparently in question (thought the jury is still out on whether or not that was the case or if this is a change in tides).  Regardless, the city’s 30+ dispensaries have been able to operate with little to no intervention from the police for some time.


So what about the feds then?  Why haven’t they sent out their horseback riding bastions of federal law and order (the RCMP) to clamp down on the one city wagging their rears at the law?  Maybe they see Vancouver as a bit of an experiment, a microcosm they can study so build the medical marijuana model of tomorrow.  Maybe it’s because Vancouver is too far west of Ottawa to be a real concern, the noisy neighbor that’s far enough down the street not to bother with.  Or maybe it’s because as nerdy as Harper and the federal government can be sometimes, they still need somewhere to get their weed from too!  Regardless, the Vancouver state of mind needs to migrate east with a long layover in Ottawa.          


What do you think?




With thanks from @KrystynaM