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‘Business as usual’ for VPD on pot shops

By Eric MacKenzie

A pot dispensary employee holds up a jar of marijuana. 

A pot dispensary employee holds up a jar of marijuana. REUTERS

The Vancouver Police Department won’t be changing its directive on marijuana dispensaries despite a recommendation from the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner to consider enacting a new policy.

The police board voted Thursday to respond to the complaint — issued by Pamela McColl of Smart Approaches to Marijuana Canada — by stating it’s premature to alter course on dispensaries when the new federal government has committed to legalization.

“We’re satisfied that in the current circumstances that the directive we have out to our members is sufficient direction to them,” Deputy Chief Doug LePard told the board. “That may change in the future when the legislation comes into being.”

For the past year, front-line officers have not been permitted to take enforcement action against a dispensary without approval from their district commander and the department’s Organized Crime Section.

“The department is just business as usual,” said Chief Adam Palmer. “We prioritize our resources, we go after methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and things like that — that’s a higher priority — and fentanyl, which is killing people in our streets. Marijuana falls into the scheme of things but definitely low down in priority.

“We’ll look into things if it’s organized crime-related, youth-related, but that’s where we sit with that. Nothing’s changed.”

Vancouver council will vote Tuesday on a motion by Coun. Melissa De Genova calling for closure orders to be issued to all of the city’s medical marijuana-related retail businesses and a moratorium on development permit reviews and issuing of business licences for dispensaries while awaiting federal legislation.

The Non-Partisan Association councillor’s motion will almost certainly be defeated.

“It’s the same backward approach that the Harper Conservative government had and it failed,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “So it’s disappointing to see this rear its head again when we see a progressive stance being taken by the Trudeau government.

“We’re looking forward to new federal standards and approach with marijuana that we can address. In the meantime, we’re already rolling forward with changes in the way we deal with it in Vancouver in making sure dispensaries are appropriate distance from schools and from each other.”