As B.C. communities struggle to get a handle on medical marijuana dispensaries opening up seemingly everywhere, the West Coast community of Port Alberni is trying something different and controversial.
The city has just granted their first business license to a pot dispensary, making it the first on Vancouver Island, to try to regulate who opens up shop in their town.
With a signless storefront in Port Alberni’s main business district that you could easily miss a newly licensed shop is hopping with customers who like Joel Marriott say for the first time, they aren’t worried their supplier of medical marijuana is going to be raided or shut down.
“It makes it so much easier instead of having to go to the streets or anything else,” says 35 year old Marriott.
Because Wee Medical has become the first medical marijuana dispensary on Vancouver Island to be issued a business license, one from the city of Port Alberni now hangs proudly over the heads of customers.
“It means that I have my medication when I need it,” he says.
Scott Smith is the city planner for Port Alberni, and says the licensing was in reaction to the sudden appearance of several pot dispensaries opening up doors here. Elected officials decided to try to control the spread by creating some rules. Such as they can’t be near schools, or within 1000 metres of another dispensary.
“And we have approved one license to date,” says Smith.
Though he says the decision is still a controversial one.
“And there were both supporters and people not in favour,” says Smith.
The Port Alberni Cannabis Club’s Trevor Bertrand hopes to be the next to be told his shop can stay.
“I hope to be the next one to get the license yes,” says the Port Alberni man.
Right now, dispensing marijuana here without a license he risks daily fines, so he hopes to get one soon.
“I’m in jeopardy of the city of Port Alberni fining me on a daily basis, I do believe it is 150 dollars a day but bylaw has better things to do than come write tickets to me and or the three other operating dispensaries against city’s bylaws,” says Bertrand.
The city is now considering a second application for a medical marijuana dispensary but don’t have a timeline when that will be decided. As this west coast city takes a bold step to license a controversial and growing business, that’s taking B.C. by storm.