Rona Ambrose, Vancouver at odds over regulation of marijuana dispensaries
Health Minister Rona Ambrose made a public challenge to Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson on Friday over the city's plans to regulate its marijuana dispensaries, saying the city has no jurisdiction to do so.
City staff will present a report to council on Tuesday recommending the establishment of a system to regulate the stores that provide marijuana to customers with a prescription.
While the city has no jurisdiction to control the sale of marijuana, it does have the right to determine where and how businesses operate within Vancouver.
Ottawa is against the move, Ambrose said.
"The reason I'm appealing to the mayor to reconsider this is because I think it sends out a bad message to kids," Ambrose said Friday at an unrelated news conference, one day after she sent a strongly-worded letter to Robertson outlining her concerns.
"The courts have ruled some Canadians should have access to dried marijuana for medical purposes, so Health Canada has set up a very rigorous regime to regulate that. But storefront dispensaries are something very different -- they're not part of the Health Canada plan in any way."
Ambrose would rather see the city shut down its illegal marijuana dispensaries rather than regulate them.
In her letter, Ambrose warned the move would "normalize" marijuana use among children and lead to increased rates of addiction.
Under the proposed plan, Vancouver would require dispensaries to be at least 300 metres from schools and would consider a $30,000 licensing fee.
The pot industry is flourishing in Vancouver -- the city had 20 dispensaries in 2012 and now has 80.
Councillor Kerry Jang has said the city is forced to take action because the federal government's medical marijuana laws are so restrictive. Jang also said the new rules are designed to protect children, rather than to expose or normalize them to the drug.
Ambrose has not said what her government will do if Vancouver moves forward with its new regulations.