Pot dispensary suing City of Abbotsford to avoid paying thousands in fines

Motacan Compassion Society is exempt from business licence requirement, operator argues

A medical marijuana dispensary is suing the City of Abbotsford in an effort to remain open and avoid paying thousands of dollars in tickets.

Motacan Compassion Society, which operates a storefront location in an alley off Montrose Avenue in downtown Abbotsford, says it is exempt from bylaws requiring a business licence due to its not-for-profit society status.

In a petition filed last week in B.C. Supreme Court, “principal operator” David Smith claims Motacan is a registered society that provides “reasonable access to medical cannabis to members of the society on a highly subsidized basis.”

The lawsuit says Motacan serves an average of 100 people per day, all of whom use cannabis for legitimate health needs, including the treatment of cancer, glaucoma and side effects from drugs for AIDS/HIV, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and other ailments.

“Motacan Society is not a business open to the public,” Smith claims.

In February, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled the City of Abbotsford could continue to fine dispensaries. The city has taken on the dispensaries by refusing to grant them business licences and then writing them pricey tickets, sometimes daily, for operating without one.

City spokesperson Tracy Boudreau said she could not comment about the specific case, as it is an open legal matter, but said that between the start of the year and the end of September, the city wrote 1,313 to “illegal cannabis storefronts.” Only 69 of those have been paid, she said.

February’s ruling came after Don Briere, the operator of the now-closed Mary Jane’s Glass & Gifts, sued the city in July 2016, alleging its bylaws were unconstitutional.

Motacan has been issued at least 36 tickets since May 2017, each coming with a $200 to $300 fine, the court documents claim. It appears those thousands of dollars in fines have not been paid.

Smith accuses the city of having an “impermissible ulterior motive” that “directly and indirectly impedes, obstructs and frustrates reasonable dignified patient access to medical cannabis.”

The city has not yet filed a response to the lawsuit.

Smith told The News he would not comment publicly at this time.


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The Motacan Compassion Society is suing the City of Abbotsford. Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News

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