Vancouver‘s unlicensed medical dispensaries returned to court this week, appealing a December 2018 B.C. Supreme Court decision that had ordered them to shut down, keeping in time with the initial launch of the coincidental federal legalization late last year.
That was followed in early 2019, when the B.C. Court of Appeal dealt a subsequent blow to their test case, by denying their request for a stay on the order to shut down, effectively requiring the immediate closure of numerous dispensaries, to which they complied
Legalization or Prohibition
The case that came before the B.C. Supreme Court at the end of 2018, stemmed from the City of Vancouver calling for the shut down of the 50 or so unlicensed dispensaries operating at the time, over what they noted as zoning and/or licensing non-compliance. Nearly two dozen dispensaries, which had “similar and overlapping issues, ” as explained by The Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary owner Dana Larsen at the time, unified their efforts in what is called a test case, hoping to set a strong precedent that could be referenced going forward, and applied to each of them individually.
The dispensaries argued that the current medical regime that came with the newly adopted federal recreational legalization, which built upon the existing Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) and Controlled Drugs and Substance Act (CDSA), was unconstitutional, as there were not the specific provisions needed in the regulations for medical dispensaries, leaving patients to either patron a recreational store, or be expected to purchase their medical cannabis online, from licensed producers.
With unreliable wait times for medicine delivery, and additionally requiring computer access, an online bank account, and a permanent address, these restrictions had the potential to violate patient’s Charter rights to reasonable access to medicine, as argued by the dispensary lawyers. The constitutional validity of numerous past cannabis regulations had been a storied battle over the years already, which saw landmark decisions being ruled by the Supreme Court of Canada, in favor of medicinal patients.
Additionally, the dispensary attorneys argued that since the city had, to an extent, aided and abetted the municipal licensing of medical dispensaries in the past, by issuing “Medical Marijuana-related” business licenses, all while collecting licensing fees, the new Cannabis Act and attempts by the city to retcon itself, now demanding new provincial and federal licenses, or calling for the dispensary closures all together, at most, placed the retailers