The City of Port Alberni approved regulating medical marijuana dispensaries in the Alberni Valley in January 2016.
The votes remained the same as they had since the issue was first raised after WeeMedical opened its doors at the end October 2015. Mayor Mike Ruttan and Coun. Denis Sauve voted against regulating dispensaries and the other five councillors voted for regulations.
By February, the number of marijuana dispensaries in Port Alberni increased to seven after Justin Trudeau was sworn in as prime minister in November 2015. Trudeau was elected, in part, on a promise to legalize marijuana.
It took only days after Trudeau’s win for WeeMedical to open its doors on Third Avenue. The shop received city approval for a business license in March 2016 making it the first medical marijuana dispensary to receive municipal approval in the Alberni Valley.
Operator Justin Liu, who operates a dispensary by the same name in Nanaimo, opened his shop in Uptown without any approvals from the city.
Key regulations approved by council included glass storefronts in commercially zoned areas, a 300-metre distance from schools and a 1,000-metre distance from other dispensaries.
With Wee Medical’s licensing, no other dispensaries can open or operate within 1,000 metres of 3034 Third Ave., where Wee Medical is located.
In June, Leaf Compassion, the second licensed medical marijuana dispensary in the Valley, opened its doors on the bottom of Johnston Road.
Kyle Cheyne, founder and executive director of Leaf Compassion, said the dispensary went through four thorough inspections from the Port Alberni Fire chief and the city planner prior to opening.
“It wasn’t as easy as we thought it was going to be, we needed to make sure everything was up to code,” Cheyne said. “We’ve been following every regulation coming out of Colorado.”
In November, Port Alberni RCMP detachment inspector, Brian Hunter, said at a city council meeting that marijuana dispensaries are not legal.
Three search warrants were executed during the Port Alberni RCMP’s third quarter (July to September) of marijuana dispensaries in the community.
Marijuana remnants, drugs, cash and weapons were seized during the raids.
“I’ve heard some very interesting conversations in the community that leads me to realize what I’ve always known: that there’s a lack of awareness in all communities of what our laws are right now in regards to marijuana for medical purposes,” Hunter said.
“To be clear to the community, marijuana dispensaries are not legal operations.”
Coun. Denis Sauve agreed with Hunter that there are many misconceptions among the public about dispensaries being legal or not.
“It is illegal…given a license by the city or not, it doesn’t matter,” Sauve said.
Read more 2016 stories on medical marijuana dispensaries here: