Kelowna pot dispensary lawyer advising client to shut down

Lawyer says dispensaries are currently '100 per cent illegal'

The lawyer for one of the marijuana dispensaries in Kelowna that the city wants to shut down, says he is advising his client to do just that.

Evan Cooke of Eyford and Shaw LLP declined to identify which dispensary he is representing, but said without question under the current law, the marijuana dispensaries operating in Kelowna now are doing so illegally.

“A prudent approach would be to shut down and wait until Kelowna passes its bylaw incorporating the new federal and provincial rules,” said Cooke.

The federal government has said it plans to make recreational marijuana legal in Canada as of July 1 and the province is currently figuring out how that would be done in B.C. It has asked municipalities and the public for submissions and the municipalities say it appears it would fall to them to set local rules for issues such as where dispensaries would be allowed and how they would operate.

Cooke said while the city announced in November it was asking the courts to shut down marijuana dispensaries in Kelowna, a number of dispensaries—including the one he represents—did not not receive an order to do so until earlier this month.

He said it’s his understanding his client will close its operation by the end of January or the beginning of February. He said he could not speak for the other dispensaries in the city.

“There is a general misconception that these dispensaries are operating in a grey area,” said Cooke. “But under criminal law, they are 100 per cent illegal at the moment.”

While Kelowna has gone to court to have dispensaries shut down, in West Kelowna the city took a different tact with two of the six dispensaries operating there. Last year it revoked the business licences of the two dispensaries. Another four, operating as non-profit groups, did not have business licences to revoke. But the city is trying to shut them down as well.

Meanwhile, Kelowna and West Kelowna have both told the province they should receive a large portion of marijuana tax revenues once the drug is legalized because they will have to do the lion’s share of the work to regulate, enforce and deal with any problems should they occur concerning dispensaries going forward.

West Kelowna has initiated a letter-writing campaign asking other municipalities to join its call for money.

But Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran has said while his city is also looking for money from the province to deal with the matter, it does not plan to join the letter-writing campaign.

He said Kelowna made its position clear in its submission to the provincial government last year.

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