Two more Penticton medical marijuana distributors are appearing before council Monday to appeal the city’s suspension of their business licences.
Avitas Pharmaco and Green Essence have both asked for the chance to appeal business licence suspensions, as Jukka Laurio, owner of the Rush In and Finish Café, did on July 19.
Despite his licence being cancelled, Laurio said he remains open for business.
“I’ve even extended the hours,” said Laurio. “I have three tickets now. The last one was $500.”
The fines issued by the city aren’t likely to prevent Laurio from continuing to sell medicinal marijuana.
“There is enough people here supporting the shop. It is their nickles and dimes that are paying the tickets,” said Laurio, who hasn’t given up on the possibility of regaining his business licence.
“There is still a long ways to go before it is over. I have plans in the works, but we will wait to see what comes from this.”
Laurio joked that he is willing to pay far more than the regular $175 business licence fee, but denied rumours he had paid $10,000 to city hall.
“If I could get my business licence, I would give them $20 grand,” said Laurio. “I’ve made a number of donations throughout the city … the museum, the art gallery, I donated to the fireworks. I’ve never actually given any to city council.”
Robert Kay, owner of Avitas, was issued a Penticton business licence for “professional consulting – intake centre for MMPR and licensed producers.”
Kay was notified in mid-July that his licence would be suspended indefinitely as of July 29 because “recent investigations suggested that the sale of marijuana (cannabis) was taking place on the premises.” Kay closed down his business on Aug. 2 until the licence appeal process could be completed.
Melissa Oslowy, owner of Green Essence, was issued a business licence on June 2 for a general merchandise store. After less than a month of operation, on June 30, Green Essence got their notice of suspension, taking effect on July 8, for the same reason.
As of Aug. 4, however, Green Essence was still selling cannabis products, and ticketed $250 for conducting business without a valid business licence by city inspectors.
Laurio’s July appeal didn’t result in a lifting of his business licence suspension, but council did direct city staff to come back within 60 days with a report with parameters to regulate medical cannabis dispensaries.
In his appeal, Kay argues it is unconstitutional to deny safe access to people that hold a federal exception for medical cannabis or medical authorization from a licensed practitioner or licensed producer under the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations, and also offers to provide guidance on the framework to develop a safe and comprehensive community plan to change the existing bylaw, allowing for the sale of medical cannabis.
Oslowy argues federal legislation does not specifically disallow or regulate the sale of medical marijuana in storefront dispensaries. The sale of medical marijuana and medical marijuana products in storefront dispensaries falls under federal jurisdiction she writes, and city council and municipalities do not have the authority to enforce federal jurisdiction.
In his report to council, Ken Kunka the city’s building and permitting manager, continues to advocate against lifting the suspensions.
“No court decision has approved the unregulated sale of marijuana and cannabis products from store front operations such as the Green Essence business. Even if the MMPR are unconstitutional, the sale of marijuana and cannabis products at the Avitas Pharmaco continues to violate the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.”
Despite expected changes to federal regulations, Kunka said the storefront sale of cannabis products is an illegal activity and that there are “no city zoning regulations, or controls on the wholesale product purchase, storage, prescription or sale from a store front operation.”
The special public hearing takes place Aug. 15 at 6 p.m. in the City of Penticton council chambers.