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One of Vancouver's oldest marijuana dispensaries to close amid legal threats from the city

Last Updated Jun 5, 2019 at 6:20 am PDT

Pot activist Dana Larsen at 4/20 in Vancouver. (Lasia Kretzel, NEWS 1130 Photo)

Legal threats from the City are forcing one of Vancouver's oldest marijuana dispensaries to shut down, director says

Dana Larsen says operators could be found in contempt of court if the business stays open

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The operator of one of Vancouver’s oldest marijuana dispensaries says legal threats from the City are forcing the business to shut down.

Dana Larsen, director of the Vancouver Dispensary Society, says the shop at 888 East Hastings Street has been open since 2008, but on Wednesday, as of 11:00 a.m. the Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary will no longer sell pot. The storefront is slated to re-open at noon as a cannabis advocacy centre.

Larsen admits the business — which he says is the third-oldest dispensary in the city — didn’t have the necessary license to operate legally, but argues that’s the fault of zoning bylaws.

“Because the area we’re in is zoned for industrial purposes, even though it’s got a lot of commercial cafes and retail places, and even though we’ve been there for 10 years, because it was zoned for industrial purposes we were unable to apply for a business license or get a development permit,” he explains.

He questions the timing of the City of Vancouver’s legal threats, given council was debating changing its zoning policy to allow for more pot shops on the Downtown Eastside just last month.

“It doesn’t make any sense to me for them to be aggressively trying to shut down our dispensary, which has been serving the Downtown Eastside community for over 10 years at the same time as they’re discussing ‘how do we get more cannabis into the Downtown Eastside to help these people out?'”

If the business doesn’t close up shop now, Larsen admits they could be found in contempt of court.

“And that could mean things like immediate jail time, a very large fine. So, fighting a contempt of court charge is extremely difficult,” he adds.

Larsen believes this move by the city is the wrong one, considering the opioid crisis that is gripping Vancouver.

He notes the dispensary operators are still in court fighting this, and has hopes they could potentially resume sales sometime in the future.