Owner of Abbotsford pot shop files constitutional court challenge

No business licence means stores must close, says city

  • Jul. 23, 2016 11:00 a.m.

A South Fraser Way medical marijuana dispensary remains open despite a court injunction.

by Kelvin Gawley, Abbotsford News

The owner of a medical marijuana dispensary battling the City of Abbotsford to stay open has filed a constitutional challenge, claiming the city has no right to ban pot shops.

In court filings submitted this month, Don Briere, who operates marijuana dispensary Mary Jane Glass and Gifts on South Fraser Way, claims many of Mary Jane’s patients are unable to obtain marijuana elsewhere due to low incomes, disabilities or both.

Briere, who owns a dozen similar locations in B.C. and Ontario, most of which are named Weeds Glass and Gifts, shut down a previous shop on Clearbrook Road after the city brought an injunction against it in January because it lacked a business licence.

The City of Abbotsford has said it won’t issue business licences to dispensaries because of federal laws prohibiting such operations.

The city has also brought an injunction against the Mary Jane location, but the South Fraser Way site remained open after the March injunction because Briere intended to appeal, the petition states.

The petition says the dispensary provides marijuana products for people with cancer, with glaucoma, recovering from heart attacks and suffering from chronic pain. It remained open, the filings say, because “given the tides of change that are transforming the law on medical marijuana in Canada and particularly in British Columbia, it would only be a matter of time before operations such as the dispensary are legal.”

Briere’s lawyer, Dean Davison, said the City of Abbotsford is bullying his client.

The City of Abbotsford continues to issue the shop two tickets a day for operating without a business licence. But Davison said other municipalities, including Vancouver, stopped issuing similar tickets once they were being challenged before the courts.

“It’s just a way, kind of, to bully our guys into not using their rights, not going to court,” said Davison.

Legislation passed by the federal Conservative government and still on the books states all medical marijuana must be bought and sold directly from Health Canada and delivered by mail.

In April, the Supreme Court overturned the law’s provisions banning homegrown marijuana, although it gave the governing Liberals six months to write a new law.

The federal Liberals have pledged to legalize marijuana.

“What we’re saying is the City of Abbotsford does not have the authority to enforce or determine an issue that is under federal jurisdiction,” he said.

Davison said his client will obey the court if it orders him to shut down his shop.

The City of Abbotsford has said it will not comment on the case because it is an ongoing legal matter.

In March, after the city filed the injunction to shut down Mary Jane, Mayor Henry Braun told The News he was not personally opposed to medical marijuana but he see it as the municipality’s legal duty to follow the law.

“We have an obligation as a local government to uphold laws, otherwise you have chaos,” said Braun, at the time.

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