The City of Abbotsford is taking steps to shut down two medical marijuana dispensaries.
Two outlets – Mary Jane’s Glass and Gifts on George Ferguson Way, and a similar shop on South Fraser Way – have opened in Abbotsford in recent months. “We don’t want to see them in Abbotsford, and we will move to have them removed,” said Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun.
Both are co-run by Weeds Glass and Gifts Limited, a Vancouver-based medical marijuana group. They sell dried marijuana, concentrated resins, marijuana-infused food products, and pills and tinctures containing marijuana-based ingredients, as well as smoking and vaporizing equipment.
The stores only sell their products to people age 19 and over with a valid medical marijuana prescription. They don’t have prescribing doctors on site, but they can arrange appointments with doctors who are willing to prescribe medical marijuana. Marijuana dispensaries are not allowed in any Abbotsford zoning, and they also contravene federal laws that only allow medical marijuana to be distributed through specific Health Canada-approved channels.
Other cities such as Vancouver have opted to license and regulate marijuana dispensaries in order to control where they can operate and what they can sell. But so long as these shops are against federal laws, Braun said he won’t support them in Abbotsford.
“As long as it’s illegal, I will support enforcement to make sure that we don’t have any in Abbotsford,” he said.
Both dispensaries applied for Abbotsford business licences, but were rejected. Braun said the city is in the process of notifying the businesses they are breaking city bylaws. If they don’t respond, he said, the city can go to court and request an order to shut the dispensaries down. This process is lengthy, and Braun is unhappy with how long it might take.
“It just takes too … long for me,” he said. “We’re following a process. It may appear that we’re not doing anything, but we are.”
Don Briere, who runs Weeds Glass and Gifts Limited, says these businesses are good for the community because they allow people to obtain marijuana without funnelling money to criminal organizations. “We draw money away from organized crime,” he said. He said he will continue to operate the Abbotsford businesses without licences, in a political move. His company also operates dispensaries, many of them unlicensed, in other cities.
“We are trying to be part of the community,” he said. Briere advocates for the full legalization of marijuana, citing the tax revenues the drug brings in for the American states where it is legal. He says the drug can be helpful to patients with chronic pain.
He’s still hiring employees for the two local stores, and plans to have three or four employees working at each location.
An earlier version of this story misspelled Don Briere’s name.